While the world’s attention was focused on the fallout from Iran’s election, a significant step forward for women was taking place in another Muslim country’s elections. In the June 2009 local elections in Morocco more than 20,000 women registered as candidates in response to a new quota reserving 12 per cent of nearly 28,000 local council seats for women. Fatima Zahra Mansouri became the first female mayor of the city of Marrakesh, and 21-year-old Fatima Boujenah became Morocco’s youngest-ever female local council leader, in the southern Moroccan community of Tata. The number of women local councillors increased to 3,300 from 107 in the previous local election.
In the wake of the June local elections I flew to Morocco to lead a three-day workshop in Rabat on Advocacy And The Media for Moroccan women’s organizations on behalf of MDI. The workshop themes were Media-NGO Relations, Planning your media coverage, and how to give effective interviews on TV. The workshop took place at the HQ of the Moroccan journalists union, the Syndicate National de Presse Marocaine. My co-trainer was Mounia Bel-Afia, Vice General Secretary of the Syndicate.
As Moroccan cities have expanded, women have emerged from their homes to enter universities and the workplace in growing numbers. In 2004 with active support from, King Mohammed V1, Morocco amended its family law to grant women legal equality with men in key areas. The Rabat workshop participants (16 women and 1 man) from Rabat, Casa, Tangier, Marrakesh, Titouan, Safi, Rachidia and Agadir included a network of women’s NGOs calling for a 50% quota for women in parliament and local councils, plus individual women’s groups campaigning to prevent and address violence against women and children, for implementation of Family Law reforms and for prevention of sexual tourism and sex trafficking.
A question women campaigners put to the Media panel was, “How do we make sure women’s issues get better more consistent coverage?” Morocco has signed up for international conventions such as The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, but the Media don’t seem to give any attention to making sure the State is accountable by fulfilling their commitments under these conventions.
The workshop was the first of a series of activities in a 2-year pilot project 'to encourage greater social and cultural inclusion through responsible media reporting on Morocco’s diversity’. Funded by the UK Embassy in Rabat Morocco, the project is organised by the British-based Media Diversity Institute, an international organisation based in London headed by Milica Pesic.