I’ve already made a few posts regarding my observations on the experiences of women in rural Morocco, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it might serve me to take a break from writing second-hand analyses of their situation. Instead, I want to let their own words take center stage. Here is my first interview, hopefully there will be more to come.
31 in All. 2.6 a month.
Thanks to our lovely Peace Corps librarian who literally shipped me a box of books, to my friends who let me borrow theirs, and to my almost cruel amount of free-time, I have read more books for heck of it since those Summer Reading Competitions held at the Public Library.
Let’s get into it.
So it finally happened: I’ve pissed off people in my town. Was it the typical faux pas that Peace Corps Volunteers commit? Did I sleep with a local or smoke a cigarette? Nope. I tried to get women to come to my English classes.
I learned pretty quickly that “What are you doing today?”, my standard conversation starter, doesn’t start much of conversation here. When I ask women in my town about their day-to-day plans, there is a sense of confusion and perhaps embarassment. “What am I doing today?” they might say, “The same thing as yesterday and the day before that. The same thing as always.” And then I have to come up with a new topic.
Marhaba Bikum! Welcome!
While tourism is dwindling in other Arab-majority countries, such as Lebanon and Egypt, many are coming to discover the unique culture and beauty of Morocco. It’s seriously so neat. For people who enjoy physical activities, Morroco’s varied terrain is perfect for hiking, camel trekking, skiing, as well as surfing. For those who enjoy history and culture, the thousand-year-old cities are full of relics from the Almoravids in the twelfth century, to the French in the twentieth century. History is preserved in the ornate mosques and universities, as well as in the traditional handicrafts sold in the streets. And then of course, there’s the mint tea, couscous, tagine, and that famous Moroccan hospitality. Morocco has something for everybody. Continue reading “So You’re Coming to Morocco?”
While the average American probably saw one or two Facebook posts about Ramadan, and has forgotten about the whole thing, my feed has been crammed with pictures of lfturs (the meal that breaks the fast at sundown) and inspirational first-time fasting reflections by non-Muslim Peace Corps Volunteers. From the looks of Facebook, many Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco are withholding food and sometimes even water from sunup to sundown. However, when I call up my friends who haven’t had much of a recent Facebook presence, I hear about them sneaking sips of water on public transportation or closing their windows before eating any food. All of us seem to have strong opinions about whether fasting is the best choice for volunteers and I am certainly not an exception. But for the sake of parity, let’s talk about things from both sides.
In the States, we tend to see the existence of child brides as an indicator of backwardness of a culture. Many of us have this hackneyed stereotype in our minds of a 15 year old being forced by her parents to marry a strange and cruel older man. And while this does happen in the world, and far too often, I want to add texture and depth to the image of the child bride. I want to dig into the incentives which cause many young women to not only agree to marriage, but to seek it out for themselves.
In Morocco, as of 2004, one legally must be of at least 18 years to marry, but unfortunately, this law hasn’t done much to stop the practice of early marriage. According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children,” about 16% of girls in Morocco are married before the age of 18. While it’s hard to know the accuracy of these statistics, from the slice of the country that I’ve experienced, 16% seems about right. In fact, at the very first and only wedding I’ve been to here, the bride was only sixteen, and no one seemed to blink an eye.
Please take my following observations with a grain of salt, as they certainly cannot contain the whole picture. I have by no means seen the whole country, and am well aware that circumstances vary widely between the countryside and the cities, and the north and the south. Also, with language and cultural barriers, I am aware that it is impossible for me to understand such a complex situation completely. Here are what I see to be the reasons that inspire girls to marry young: