The notion of gender equality and the concept of gender have been concerns for human rights, and women’s rights activists in particular, throughout the post-colonial era.
Starting in the first decade of the 3rd millennium, or even some years before that, Morocco embarked on a process of democratisation, implementing social and political reforms focused on respect for human rights and civil liberties, thus marking a clear break with a past that could be described as “murky”.
These reforms introduced new laws not only to impart new behaviours and new practices within society, but also to reconcile citizens with their history, their identity and their system of government. We can cite, by way of example, the participation of the opposition (i.e. the Left) when power in government changed hands, the creation of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission and all of its resulting recommendations, the introduction of a quota system favouring women during elections (introduced for the general elections in 2002 and for the local elections in 2009), the reform of the Personal Status Code, which has become the Family Code, the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) which has resulted in, among other things, increased literacy and an improvement in the economic position of women, especially in rural areas, in addition to other measures such as the creation of an Advisory Commission for Equality within municipalities and regional councils post-2011.
“Committed to a democratic process, the State is placing its efforts in a progressive policy of equality between men and women, initiated by the government in 1998 with the PANIFD (National Plan of Action for Integrating Women in Development), pursued in various forms (development of sectoral strategies, awareness-raising campaigns, studies, surveys, etc.) and realised formally through the adoption by consensus of the quota for the 2002 House of Representatives general elections and legally through a significant drive for law reforms marked by the reform of the Personal Status Code, in 2004, which has now become the Family Code”. Extract from the report of the High Commissioner for Planning (HCP), December 2006.
Equality between men and women cannot be achieved without this democratisation process, nor can it be achieved without collective awareness-raising and the full assimilation of the concepts and values that contribute to its construction; these concepts including equality, equity, social justice and even parity. The 2009-2011 Governmental Agenda for Equality rightly proposed equitable access for girls and boys to all domains, including education, to lead us towards a developed and balanced society. The most recent version of the Moroccan Constitution (July 2011) highlights this notion of equality calling for a break with all forms of discrimination against women in several of its articles (e.g. article 19).
The gender approach in the Moroccan education system
Since the first World Education Forum, held in Dakar in April 2000, several short-term targets have been set for the most urgent issues with other targets for less urgent issues having been set for the medium and long terms. The most urgent issues are those aimed at achieving access and the right to education for all and eliminating the disparities that exist between the genders in primary and secondary education. Similarly, the issue of equality between men and women has consistently been the focal point of international conferences on higher education since the Paris Conference of October 1998.
In Morocco, the fight to raise awareness on gender equality in the education sector has traditionally been fought by civil society, trade unions and the progressive political parties. However, it was only after the proposal of the 2009-2012 Governmental Agenda for Equality put forward by the Ministry of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development to Abbass Elfassi’s government that it was made explicit and official.
In this regard, the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training drafted a Service Contract (no. 2012/301-300) with the European Union in 2012, setting out a strategy to support the implementation of the Medium-term Strategic Action Plan for the institutionalisation of equality between the genders in the Moroccan education system. This strategy has three components: the process of institutionalizing the concepts of equality and gender; the development of strategies and gendered communication tools; and gender-sensitive budgeting. The components cited have been implemented in all institutions falling under the Kingdom’s Regional Education and Training Academies, this implementation having taken place over 15 months (from January 2013 to March 2014). This implementation has required a working methodology based on two essential tools: training and support, with a strong participative approach for both administrative and teaching staff.
But what of the reality regarding equality between the genders within the education system?
The situation, according to our assessment, which is based in part on that of the reports, namely the relevant ministry and various civil society organisations, is as follows:
· the number of children (girls and boys) in formal schooling in Morocco continues to grow. However, the number of girls in certain peripheral urban areas and some rural areas (especially in mountainous regions) is unsatisfactory;
· more girls are passing the baccalaureate than are boys, and similarly, there are more girls enrolled in higher education (at the bachelor’s degree level) than there are boys. However, the number enrolled in masters and doctorate courses is far lower;
· the number of female teachers (primary and secondary) has increased substantially, but how too few women are regional directors or head up academies;
· the number of teacher-researchers is rising sharply, but positions involving greater responsibility and decision-making remain dominated by men. Very few women are employed as deans, vice-deans, executive directors, budget managers, graduate school directors, and even fewer are university chancellors; and
· the issue also arises at the trade union level: although there are just as many female as male teacher members of the various national teaching unions, the percentage of women on executive boards and administrative committees is very small!
By way of conclusion, we can say that the notion of gender equality in our education system is still poorly assimilated despite the colossal efforts made by many. The “macho” mentality, firmly rooted in cultural and religious traditions as much with men as with women, remain the major obstacle. Any change towards equality remains closely linked to political will as well as the daily battles of activist movements.
This change will require:
· the dissemination of a positive and objective image of women through the diffusion of knowledge, via school textbooks and publications, or even through being sensitive to such issues in some translations (skewed and misinterpreted);
· educating children within the family on the principle of equality and respect for others. This depends on parents who are informed and steeped in these values;
· awareness-raising among managers working in communications technology, of the educational role of audio-visual media; and
· the adoption of a quota for female representation greater than or equal to 30 per cent (aiming for parity) in the statutes and laws governing both education and trade unions.