08 Mar These women that have marked the history of the Kingdom
Pilot, ambassadress, governor, royal councilor, pro athlete… If these women have marked the history of Morocco, it is because they have overcome social and family pressures to accomplish their dreams. On this day March 8th, International Day for the struggle of women’s rights, I wish you to always remember that at times when it seemed impossible, they did it. Portraits.
Essayida Al Hurra – The Andalusian (1485 – 1542)
From her childhood in Granada, Essayida Al Hurra will especially remember the humiliation of a forced exile. It is in Chefchaouen, city built by her grandfather, that her family will find refuge and that she will marry a friend of his fathers. She is then 16 years old, he is governor of Tetouan and is 30 years her elder. When her husband dies, she takes over his job. She will be the first female governor, a profession she will hold for 30 years. Essayida Al Hurra is also known for sending pirates on many European ships in the Mediterranean, to avenge the forced exile of her family in Andalusia. Her nickname? The queen of pirates!
Fatima Al Fihriya – builder of the future (died in 880)
It is at 9 years of age that this Tunisian of origin arrives with her family in Fez. And what a family! Her father, Muhammad Al Fihri, was a wealthy trader. After his death, Fatima Al Fihriya convinces her sister to bequeath their father’s fortune to a noble cause in the service of the community. A fine tribute that will allow the construction of the al-Qaraouiyyin Mosque, which is today the oldest university in the world still in function.
Malika Fassi – activist with a big heart (1919 – 1991)
If her name does not sound familiar, it’s because History tends to forget it’s women, of course! Yet Malika Fassi, born into a literate family in 1919, is a figure of pioneering in many ways. This Fassiya has devoted her life to social and educational actions, in an unwavering commitment to help the less fortunate. Although it is as a nationalist activist that Malika Fassi marked the History of Morocco: she was the only woman who signed the Manifesto of Independence in 1944, fully committed to the freedom of the country.
Lalla Aicha – Princess, ambassadress … and feminist (1931 – 2011)
Daughter of Mohammed V and Lalla Abla bint Tahar, Princess Lalla Aicha was very close to her father. When he delivers a speech in Tangier in favor of the Independence, she succeeds him at the microphone. This is the famous speech of April 11, 1947, which will make the Princess a role model for all Moroccan women. “Our sultan, may God help him, hopes to see all women persevere towards the path of education (…) they are the weatherglass of our Renaissance”. Very cultured and dressed in European style clothing during her speech, she provoked the wrath of the Mandoub of Tangier who demanded the arrest of all women dressed this way in the streets. A symbol of Independence and feminism, she will be the first woman ambassadress of the Arab world, in Great Britain, then in Greece and Italy.
Touria Chaoui – the murder of freedom (1936 – 1956)
Born in Fes, Touria Chaoui debuts very early in home tutoring classes for grammar, history, writing … and theater, great passion of her father, Abdelwahed Chaoui, journalist and stage director. Later trained in Arabic stenography, she was hired as a secretary in Casablanca, but eventually convinced her father to enroll her in the Tit Mellil pilot training school. Her license in hand at age 16, she became famous for being the first Moroccan and Arab female pilot. In 1955, on the occasion of the Sultan’s return from exile, she dropped welcome leaflets from her single-seat airplane, and was then received with her father at the Palace. Touria Chaoui will soon be overtaken by her tragic destiny, murdered in the middle of the street at the age of 19.
Zulikha Nasri – a royal destiny (1935 – 2015)
Originally from Oujda, Zulikha Nasri was the first woman to practice as Royal Councilor. She holds a law doctorate and worked at the Ministry of Finance and Social Affairs before joining the Royal Cabinet in 1998, just before the transition from Hassan II to Mohammed VI. In the year 2000 she was appointed advisor by the latter. We will remember her leading role in the social actions undertaken by the King among the poorest, as well as her involvement in the reform of the family code, the Mudawana, was the first step towards further equality between men and women.
Nawal El Moutawakel – born to win (Born 1962)
First woman in the Arab world and Africa to be a gold medalist at the Olympics (400 meters hurdles), Nawal El Moutawakel is an icon of the sport and a model of perseverance. Hassan II had also wished that every girl born on the day of her victory be named Nawal in her honor. Today, if little girls were to bear her name, it would be a tribute to her flawless journey. Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 2012, this former Minister of Youth and Sports continues to inspire generations.
This non-exhaustive list could extend to infinity, especially as the relay is in good hands, and many women who, like Nawal El Moutawakel, today make the Morocco of tomorrow. How about you, who are your sources of inspiration?