In 2003, Morocco passed its Family Law, a landmark step in guaranteeing women equal rights within the family, including by ending the custom of male “guardianship.” Other signs of progress have been the election of a record number of women to political office, making Morocco a reference point for progressive women’s movements across the Middle East and North Africa region. But discrimination against women still persists, and laws remain to be modernized. Two groups that continue to suffer severe exclusion and discrimination are single mothers and girl domestic workers.
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is supporting the Institute Nationale de Solidarité avec les Femmes en Détresse (INSAF) to work on the socioeconomic integration of these women and girls, reduce stigma and strengthen the legal framework for protection. Both groups are prone to multiple forms violence: high rates of infanticide and suicide, sexual abuse, maltreatment in the hands of service providers, relegation to the most poorly paid and dangerous forms of employment, and the risk of imprisonment. Many girl domestic workers end up pregnant out of wedlock. Single mothers who come to the attention of the authorities by giving birth in hospitals can still be arrested.
“In Morocco, women can be subjected to violence from many sides. They are all interlinked, so you have to act on all of them to be effective,” says INSAF’s Clothilde Dumont. Part of this involves constructing partnerships — INSAF has a history of cracking open the longstanding silence and lack of action on the abuse of girl domestic workers by collaborating closely with local authorities, national education officials, and parents to return girls to their families and schools.
With the UN Trust Fund grant, it will extend its activities. Continued support for the reintegration of girl domestic workers will include scholarships and other forms of educational support, backed by equipping 16 local groups in two provinces to conduct ongoing programmes of assistance. For single mothers, a model unit for orientation and professional reinsertion will be piloted at INSAF, and later replicated in five other organizations working to end violence against women. Participants will receive a range of health, legal and social services, and assisted in regaining a sense of dignity and confidence along with professional skills. Partnerships with private sector associations and the Ministries of Employment and Social Affairs will help determine training needs and foster the notion of corporate social responsibility within the Moroccan business community.
INSAF will also conduct national and local advocacy campaigns to foster new and more supportive attitudes to single mothers and girl domestic workers, in the media and the public at large. Towards a more protective legal framework, it will review existing laws and recommend improvements. The group already plans to immediately urge the overturn of the law allowing single mothers to be arrested. It will also ask for an expansion of the right to sue people engaged in procuring children for domestic employment. Currently, this right is allowed only for parents. Knowing that people in poverty are often paid not to sue over the loss of their children, INSAF and other groups would like to have this ability themselves, as one more tool to break the cycle of violence and move towards the full protection of human rights.
The Institute Nationale de Solidarité avec les Femmes en Détresse (INSAF), Morocco, received a grant in 2008 from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women for the 3-year project titled “Defending the Rights of Single-Mothers and Girl Domestic Workers.” For more information, please contact UN Trust Fund staff.
(Story Date: 24 November 2008)