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THE POWER OF WOMEN IN THE 21ST CENTURYInterview with H.E. Ms. Zakia EL MIDAOUI



H.E. Zakia EL MIDAOUI, who is an economist, has a Bachelor's degree in economics and accounting, a bachelor's degree in financial and commercial sciences and a speciality in marketing and distribution. She has been working in the diplomatic field since 1982.

Before being posted as Ambassador in Bulgaria, she was Director of Multilateral Cooperation and International Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan living abroad (MFA), of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Before, she worked as Head of the Economic and Commercial Organizations and Conferences Division at the Department of Multilateral Cooperation and International Economic Affairs at the MFA and also as Head of the Department of Bodies and Conferences related to multilateral trading and financial systems.

She was also posted as “Chargée d'Affaires” a.i. and Deputy Head of the Permanent Mission of Morocco in Geneva (Switzerland).




Introduction

Moroccan women: important statutory advances

Since the 1990s and early 2000s, the Kingdom of Morocco has made significant progress in promoting the status of women, both in terms of overhauling the national legal system to keep pace with international conventions, and in terms of strengthening the institutional framework and developing programs and policies related to gender equality, the protection and promotion of women's rights.

In this respect, the year 2011 marked a turning point in efforts to strengthen the representation and participation of Moroccan women. This progress is the result of a reform process that began in the early 2000s and which concerned the Family Code and the place of women in society in 2004. This reform had responded to a strong national expectation, echoing the international movement, considering the fight against gender inequality as a factor of development and social cohesion,

It should be recalled that in 2011, the reform of the Constitution has established, among other things, gender equality as a constitutional principle, thus consolidating the achievements of the 2004 reform. The particularity of the Constitution of 2011 is that it enshrines the principles of equality and non-discrimination in favor of women, and this, from the preamble.

In the same framework and in order to put an end to the discrimination of which Moroccan women are victims, the Moroccan Parliament adopted in 2018 the law 103-13 on violence against women. This law, which is quite far-reaching, aims mainly to provide better protection against all forms of violence against women. In this perspective, the said law provides, in particular, for the criminalization of acts of violence harmful to women, by prohibiting in particular forced marriage and physical violence, sexual harassment in the street and at work, as well as repudiation.

In addition, His Majesty King Mohammed VI has established, in 2019, the Special Commission on the New Development Model. This Commission has developed a New Development Model with the aim of guiding Morocco towards a developmental strategy that emphasizes the importance of female empowerment and gender equality.

In this respect, in order to remedy the dissonances observed, the Special Commission stressed the need to enhance the value of women in Moroccan society. To do this, it focused on the economic axis. Indeed, one of the development indicators, for 2035, is the activity rate of women, which the Commission aims at 45% (against the current 22%). The Commission then turned to the axis of inclusion, recommending in particular better social protection for women and the march towards wage parity.


The Power of Women in Diplomacy

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Morocco has adopted a set of laws and regulations that aim to establish equality and achieve parity between men and women in senior positions and positions of responsibility in public administration,

As far as the civil service is concerned, more particularly the diplomatic service, my field of expertise, the presence of women has increased significantly over the last few years. Women make up 43% of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; civil servants, while 41% of the staff of embassies and consulates are women. In 2022, 21% of ambassadors, consuls and «chargées d’affaires» are women, whose share did not exceed 13.5% in 2017. Indeed, during the last three years, the rate of recruitment of women has reached 51.3%.

It should be noted that women are appointed as ambassadors in very important countries such as the United States of America, Germany and Spain.

In addition, women's candidacies for positions in the United Nations and its subsidiary organs, as well as in other international organizations, are seriously encouraged and supported by the Moroccan government.

In the dynamics, Moroccan women are distinguished by their action and their status as members of human rights treaty bodies, thus reinforcing the confidence placed in the Kingdom’s experts and competences as well as Morocco’s progress in the field of human rights. Among these women are, among others, Dr. Hynd Ayoubi-Idrissi, who sits as a member of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child; Dr. Nadia Bernoussi, who joined the Human Rights Advisory Committee in Geneva in 2020; Dr. Najat Maalla MJid, appointed by the UN Secretary General as Special Representative on Violence against Children with the rank of Deputy Secretary General.

Eloquent recognition of the progress made by the Kingdom of Morocco in the protection of human rights in their entirety, the presence of these exceptional women in human rights bodies reflects the active role they play in Moroccan society, thanks to the reforms undertaken in the Kingdom, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, for the promotion of their rights.

Morocco is also at the head of Arab and Muslim countries in terms of the representation of women in diplomacy. Need we remind you that the presence of women in the diplomacy of the Kingdom does not date from today. Was not the late HRH Princess Lalla Aicha the first female Ambassador in the Arab world in the early years of independence? She was Ambassador of Morocco to the United Kingdom (1965-1969), to Greece (1969-1970), and to Italy (1970-1973).

Over the years, Moroccan women have asserted their presence in the diplomatic sphere thanks to their own qualities and professional skills, as well as their dynamism and their ability to negotiate. They have always been present in most capitals, taking part in various international and regional conferences to make Morocco's voice heard, and to promote and defend its interests with the international community.

It is important for me to recall that in the context of gender-sensitive budgeting on the evaluation of public policies with regard to the principles of equality between women and men, which the Ministry carries out like the other ministerial departments of the Kingdom, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans living abroad draws up an annual report to take stock of the impact of this budgetary policy on the situation and condition of women in foreign policy, the aim being to rectify the shooting where there is a deficit at the expense of women. This tool has contributed significantly to further enlightening the concerned authorities to enable them to take the appropriate measures in order, rightly, to correct the flaws and eliminate the stereotypes that persist. This report summarizes the commitments in favor of equality made by the Ministry and provides Parliament with information enabling it to play its role as a control body. During my mandate as Director of Multilateral Cooperation and International Economic Affairs at the aforementioned Ministry, I was responsible for drafting this report, based on relevant indicators, to highlight the progress made in this area and the way still to go.

In Morocco, for example, parliamentarians have been trained in gender-responsive budgeting so that they have the knowledge and skills to analyze and comment on the report on gender equality, which is presented each year as an annex to the finance law.


The Power of Women in Politics

According the “Women in politics: 2021” map, created by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women, despite increases in the number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist: progression in women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with just a small increase to from 21.3 per cent in 2020 to 21.9 per cent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased; and only 25.5 per cent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 per cent the year before. Could Your Excellences share some positive trends of women empowerment in politics in your countries?

A satisfactory state of affairs and very promising emancipation prospects: A look at the available figures illustrates a state of affairs that reveals very promising emancipation prospects for Moroccan women.

When the Organic Law of the House of Representatives was revised in 2002, a quota was adopted after the introduction of the voting system by "regional lists" and "national list" reserving 30 seats for women, i.e. 10% of the seats (as part of the principle of positive discrimination aimed at favoring female candidates in Parliament).

For example, the increase in the number of elected women after the legislative elections of 2002 and the municipal elections of 2009 provided - supported by figures - concrete proof of the beginnings of minimization of political bodies and therefore the effective application of the principle of equality between men and women. This evolution, which began since independence and continues until today, is linked to the demands and mobilizations of women in political parties, trade unions and finally in women's associations.

Moreover, after September 8, 2021, the date of the elections (legislative, municipal, regional), Morocco has taken a new qualitative leap in highlighting the role of women in political life. The number of women has gone from 81 (or 20.5%) in 2016, to 96 (or 24.3%) of the 395 seats in the House of Representatives (Parliament), in 2021. In this respect, yesterday almost absent from any activity related to political life, today, women are more and more present in this field.

This process was further confirmed with the election of three women who became mayors of three major Moroccan cities: Casablanca (economic capital), Marrakech (touristic capital) and Rabat (the capital of the Kingdom).

Similarly in the current government, six women hold ministerial portfolios, compared with four in the previous government. This indicates a strong desire to increase the representation of women in positions of power. It should be noted that these women ministers have been assigned strategic sectors, such as the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Tourism, Handicrafts, Housing and Family.

The Medias play a vital role in shaping and promoting social and cultural norms, including the fight against gender stereotypes. Neutral images of women and men in the Medias are important to promote women's economic empowerment, eradicate gender discrimination and eliminate violence against women.

With this in mind, the Moroccan Ministry of Communication is leading a project for the institutionalization of gender equality in the Medias. In addition, a Council on gender equality and the Medias was created within the press Union.

Besides, Human rights institutions, both internationally and nationally, play a key role in ensuring that women's rights do not just exist on paper, but also become a reality.

Among the international mechanisms for implementing women’s rights, an important one is the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). While almost all countries have ratified CEDAW, only Morocco and Tunisia have ratified its Optional Protocol, which allows the CEDAW body, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, to receive complaints from individuals or to investigate serious or systematic violations of the Convention.


The Power of Women in business

Women in business: advantages, challenges, and opportunities! Your Excellencies would you summarize this topic regarding the situation in your country?

In the economic field, Moroccan women continue to make progress. It is worth noting that the prestigious magazine Forbes Middle East has just unveiled its ranking for the year 2023 of the 100 most powerful and influential businesswomen in the Middle East and North Africa region, five Moroccan women are among them. Among these two are in the Top 20.

However, women’s participation in the labor market remains low, with an activity rate of 19.9% in 2020. More than 8 out of 10 women are outside the labor market. The employment rate for women is almost a quarter of that of men (16.7% versus 62.9%).The proportion of businesses run by women reached 12.8% in 2019.

To remedy this situation, the current government has launched economic development programs, of which 40% of the beneficiaries by 2026 will be women. The Government also aims to increase the female employment rate from 22% to 30%.

The Government has thus adopted several laws and regulations to increase the number of women executives occupying positions of responsibility in all regions of Morocco, the aim being to honor its commitments under the United Nations Agenda relating to the sustainable development goals, in terms of equal opportunities in economic development (goal 5) and economic growth and access to labor markets (goal 8).

Thanks to the personal commitment of our Sovereign, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Morocco has launched several programs to improve the place of women on boards of directors, encourage female entrepreneurship and leadership, enable women to take advantage from benefits of digitization and to integrate women into Morocco's sustainable development initiatives.

On July 31, 2021, the Moroccan Parliament adopted a reform, which constitutes a major turning point in favor of gender equality in the Kingdom. The amendment to the law governing public limited companies promotes the principle of balanced representation of women and men in the governance bodies of businesses. It sets mandatory quotas to ensure gender diversity on the boards of public limited companies, with a minimum target of 30% female representation by 2024, and 40% by 2027.

This law is the result of exemplary cooperation between the government, parliament and civil society, supported by a working group created at the initiative of UN Women and including women personally involved in the defense of women's rights, as well as representatives of the Women Administrators Club in Morocco.

The World Bank, which supports all initiatives promoting the economic inclusion of women and their increased participation in corporate governance bodies, supported this exemplary effort by including this measure among the key reforms of its budget support program of 450 million dollars for the benefit of the Moroccan government in 2021.

Mandating the representation of women in the governance bodies of public companies is a bold step that only a few countries in the world (notably Norway, France, Italy, Belgium, and Spain) have adopted. Morocco is the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to take the leap. The reform is expected to build confidence in women's leadership skills, foster their career development, boost business performance and ultimately support economic growth.


The Power of Women in Science

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay observed that “even today, in the 21st century, women and girls are being sidelined in science-related fields due to their gender”. How can we indeed reduce the gender gap in science?

Scientific research is one of the most important vectors in the development process of the knowledge society and a driving force for development. Studies show that scientific research impacts development and its intelligent integration into the knowledge economy. Reinforced upstream by quality education, scientific research contributes to the progress of society, to its prosperity and to the well-being of individuals. All countries have researchers and claim a science policy to contribute to knowledge as a good for humanity and above all to accelerate their public policies.

Each year during the International Day of Women dedicated to women's rights, the United Nations defines a different theme. Since the digital age is creating new and unprecedented opportunities to improve the lives of women and girls around the world, the theme of this March 8, 2023 is “For an inclusive digital world: innovation and technologies for gender equality”.

Also, in homage to women, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), the largest UN gathering on gender equality and the empowerment of women, held annually in March, has chosen in 2023 as its theme "Innovation, technological change and education in the digital age to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls".

Regarding Morocco, in June 2018 UNESCO published a study in which we can observe that Moroccan women are nevertheless very present in medical sciences 40%, and 32% in natural sciences against 28% in human sciences.

On average, Moroccan women obtain better school results than men. In 2021, 55% of high school graduates were women and the proportion of Moroccans aged 15 and over with higher education was much higher among women (26%) than among men (14%). In addition, 60% of graduates in management and 50% in science and technology are women.

In short, the budget allocated by the Moroccan Government to education is the largest compared to that allocated to other sectors.

In this sense, Morocco has put in place a strategic vision for the period from 2015 to 2030 relating to the reform of education, which places particular emphasis on the generalization of the schooling of children, especially girls.

Moroccan women have also strongly invested in the cultural, educational and scientific fields. They are engineers, airplane pilots, architects, doctors, journalists, lawyers, judges, deans of universities, artists,... They also have successful national and international careers in the sciences, arts and culture: theater, cinema, television, visual arts, poetry, music, singing....

We note that the number of women having obtained a doctorate is clearly increasing for all disciplines. Similarly, the number of permanent female teachers in university higher education has increased considerably.


The Power of Women in Sport

Regarding the Sustainability Strategy of IOC “fostering gender equality and strengthening women`s empowerment in and through sport is also at the core of the mission of IOC.” Could you share with us the engagement of the women in your countries in the sports movement?

Women's participation in sport has a long history. This history, marked by division and discrimination, is also illustrated by the resounding successes of female athletes and by the considerable progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

As far as sports are concerned, the days when women did not participate in different sports competitions are over. Nowadays, they are present in all individual and team sports and excel in many sports disciplines. Among the Moroccan athletes with remarkable successes to their credit, we can cite Nawal El Moutawakil, who is the first Arab, African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Today, she is a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Thanks to her, a great and immense door has opened for many young girls, and not only in Morocco, but in many Arab, African and Muslim countries. Countries, whose women had never before participated in the Olympic Games, no longer came just to participate, but to win. From that moment, many Moroccan women were able to become world champions.

Recently, the performance of the women’s national soccer team at the last African Cup of Nations 2022, which placed second in this major African competition and qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand, is revealing in many ways. Although Moroccan women footballers did not win the Cup, they won the hearts of Moroccans who are proud of them. They won the admiration, the esteem and the respect of a whole people, and, at the same time, they set themselves up as Ambassadors of the emancipation of the Moroccan Woman.

As for the automobile, it no longer has any secrets thanks to the exploits of Samira Bennani, Moroccan racing driver and first African racing champion to participate alongside men in the car championships on a closed speed circuit. It is therefore not denied that women are present in all categories of sports: athletics, team sport, combat, ...

However, some practices remain recent. One of the most striking examples is mountaineering, thanks to Bouchra Baibanou. This trained engineer and mountain enthusiast is the first Moroccan mountaineer to reach the summit of Everest, having conquered Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Mount Elbrouz, Aconcagua, Mount Mckinley and Puncak Jaya.

Even bodybuilding is no longer associated only with men, since many Moroccan women have seriously taken up the practice of this sport.

The Moroccan woman today surpasses herself: she knows a regular progression and launches more and more often in disciplines previously reserved for men. However, if she does her best to improve her skills and follow her passion, she remains in constant need of recognition and support.

For the first time in the history of Moroccan men's national football, referee Bouchra Karboubi officiated the match held on May 14, 2022 between the Royal Armed Forces Sports Association and Athletic of Tetouan, in part of the final of the Throne Cup (men) for the 2019-2020 sports season.

The days when women did not participate in the various sports competitions are over. Nowadays, they excel in many sports practices. Every victory is special. But some are more resounding than others, certainly because they represent the sum of several victories in one.

Is it necessary to underline it more! In spite of social constraints and obsolete traditions that are sometimes tenacious, the Moroccan woman persists in following the path of her development and self-affirmation, while combining authenticity and progress, open-mindedness and tradition.


I recommend you to dream and to work hard so that your dreams come true.

Nothing is impossible, but the most important is that you do is what you love and you like most.Then you will success there is no doubt.

Please follow you dreams!




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