Promoting gender equality in Morocco

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Promoting gender equality in Morocco

25 September 2015 – Fatima Ait Lhoussine lives in a remote village in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Not long ago, the only jobs she could do were household chores and helping her husband in the field. She couldn’t travel anywhere on her own or manage her money.

But that all changed when IFAD partnered with the Government of Morocco to launch an innovative microfinance service in the village.

The concept was simple – provide women with the means to start their own businesses. Through the IFAD-supported Rural Development Project in the Mountain Zones of Al-Haouz, Fatima was able to borrow enough money to buy two sheep.

Fatima then joined with other women to form a cooperative so that they could consolidate their resources and manage their sheep business together. They sold some of their sheep during Eid al-Adha, the main religious festival, and used the wool to produce berber carpets that are sold as far away as Marrakesh.

Fatima has no intention of turning back. In fact, she is working to take her business a step further. With the income from their sheep, Fatima and the other members bought beehives and olive trees.

In just eight years, the number of sheep has grown tenfold, and the women’s new earning power, combined with other project-related activities, has resulted in a 60 per cent increase in household income.

By empowering women, the project has helped them change not only their own lives but those of their families and communities.

“Women can go shopping at the souk (market). We can buy our children presents, buy them school bags, and if they are sick we can afford to buy them medicines," says Fatima.

"We women don’t have to ask or beg our husbands for money to be able to buy what we need and want. Now we are autonomous.”

Fatima’s husband, Hussein Ait Mansour, is very pleased with his wife’s new role in the family. Like the other men in this town, he now accepts his wife as an equal.

“Now it’s not like the old times. When the man was the only source of income, we had to loan money to buy clothes for our children. But now everyone benefits from the cooperative’s revenue," he says.

Women can go shopping at the market. We can buy our children presents, buy them school bags, and if they are sick we can afford to buy them medicines. We women don’t have to ask or beg our husbands for money to be able to buy what we need and want. Now we are autonomous.

"They have their sheep. They have everything they need. They don’t lack anything anymore.”

Fatima has no intention of turning back. In fact, she is working to take her business a step further. With the income from their sheep, Fatima and the other members bought beehives and olive trees.

They were trained how to produce honey and olive oil and then taught others to do the same, and are now selling their products in the market.

But Fatima is getting ready for what might be the most significant step yet:  In a few weeks, she will start literacy classes, not just to help further her business goals but to help pave the way for all women in the region who want to take charge of their own destinies.