On gender equality and womens’ rights: an interview from Morocco

Women’s rights are a very hotly debated issue all over the globe. Perhaps nowhere is this issue  more hotly debated than in Morocco, which frequently sees women taking to the streets in the age-old battle for equality, and whose Islamist-led government often comes under fire from women’s rights activists. (With just reason: according to survey data from the Haut Commissariat Du Plan (HCP), an independent government statistics body, around one in every two unmarried women in Morrocco are subjected to verbal or physical sexual violence).

I caught up with Sana Afouiaz at WCY2014 to get her take on the subject.

Please introduce yourself.

photo 3Hi, I’m Sana Afouaiz, from Morocco. I’m a correspondent for the Voices of Women and a national delegate for WCY 2014.

What is your primary topic of interest?

My primary interest is in women’s rights. People think it is enough to have basic rights, like voting,  For the situation of women’s rights to get better, it’s not enough to give the normal rights that people have, but to have their voices at a political level, to be equal to men in social, economical, political decisions.

This is one of the major issues I am really passionate about, and I have made many recommendations on these subjects, especially education, and I am trying to get them to take my recommendations into account.

What inspired you to join WCY as a delegate?

Well, are gathered here not only to be here in Sri Lanka, but for our voices, as women, our recommendations to be heard by the United Nations. We don’t need older men to dictate all our decisions. We need a voice in the decision. I wanted to bring our voice into the limelight.

I’m from a region in which this is a huge issue, so naturally I am very, very focused on this.

How far have the delegates progressed in addressing these issues?

For now, I can still say we’re in the process of discussing our ideas with people who have the power to do something, but I will only be able to judge the effectiveness og this whole conference based on the end, on whether our voices are heard or not.

There are some sessions where we spoke our mind, and the people involved did not, I feel, really hear us. We want to be involved, or included: we do not want government decision makers to ignore us.

In your sessions since WCY started, have you been able to communicate and discuss these plans with like-minded others?

Yes, I am. I just had an interview with Mr Ahmed from the United Nations, and I had the chance to be one of the photo 1Arabian people to address one of the issues of our region.

It was a very interesting interview. He agreed that we must not just talk, we need something tangible. Our voices will not be heard unless we are prepared, unless we properly present them. It was a very interesting presentation. One thing I really like is that in the negotiations we saw so many issues from different countries, and that really puts things in perspective,

I believe that it is a chance for us. We are not here from different countries just to come to Sri Lanka. We are here on a mission to get people to hear what we believe in, the voice of youth.

What do you personally hope to achieve here at WCY2014?

For me, being here is amazing.

But my voice to be heard is the most important. I represent the youth of my country. Before I came here, I established connections with youth in my country, and we discussed the most crucial issues and decided what I would address here, so when I ask a question, it is with their voice.

We want to develop education, health, gender balance – to develop our country – and what I would like to see is that the ideas and the recommendations that we bring will be taken in by the UN and that will result in a push in our government to improve things. I want every woman living their lives well – without being discriminated, with their voices heard in a political, social, economic level.

Is the empowerment of women the only priority? 

I believe that it won’t be successful if we educate only the women, of course. We need to educate both peoples. The problem is, in our region, men get more priority than women. We want both to be intellectual, both to be powerful, both to be balanced because one completes the other. That’s just it.

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