RNW is keen on featuring inspiring women in our target countries, women who make a difference, who are not afraid to speak out, who inspire others and who bring about change in their immediate surroundings and further afield.
Two RNW colleagues were invited to Morocco to attend TEDxMarrakech. Raja Felgata, one of RNW's senior producers, was asked to share her personal story. "Before I began working at RNW, I had travelled a long road that turned me into the woman and journalist that I have become. I was the first newsreader of Moroccan origin in the Netherlands. Feminist magazines such as OPZIJ inspired me to make a list of inspiring women from immigrant backgrounds in response to the reigning cynicism in the Netherlands.
"I found the TEDx talk inspiring," says Raja, "because it took me back to my great-grandmother's city, the city where my mother grew up. It was intellectually and emotionally challenging. When I received the invitation,
"I spoke to a colleague from RNW's video department, Margo de Haas, about how we could take advantage of the TEDx to also make videos. We wanted to feature women who were pushing the boundaries, women who in the Moroccan context could make a difference. For today's women in this North African country, it's still a challenge to study, work, develop and become emancipated."
Women's motorcycle club
There are more than enough female judges in the country, but female artists are still underrepresented. But there are also women like Touria Bine Bine. A few years ago, a doctor told her that she didn't have much longer to live. 13 years later, she's devoted her life to teaching young girls in rural areas and giving them hope for the future.
Then there are other women such as Hayat Jabrane - the sister of a former minister, who is also one of the most influential women in modern-day Morocco - who crisscrosses the country with Hind Daou in a Harley Davidson motorcycle club. They're women who have the balls to make their voices heard and to dispel prejudices, thanks to their willpower.
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Morocco is a country full of contradictions and moments of frustration, but they pale in comparison to the beauty of the stories of the women Raja and Margo meet. They are women who speak to the imagination and who live with a power and passion that are inspiring.
They feel goosebumps when one of the Moroccan women tells them that an imam groped her to exorcise "the devil" inside her. Later she found the strength to fulfill her dream and to become the person she always wanted to be. It made them think: women around the world make the difference today, or as Said, one of the motorcycle club members put it: "We are proud of women like Hind because she's an example to many Moroccan women. She fought for her rights and freedom. Men can only have respect for that."
"It gave me a lot of energy," says Margo, "to see how these women choose their own path and dared to be what they wanted to be. Women like Hind and Youssra didn't retreat into their shell after their horrible experiences. Instead, they're presenting a positive message and fighting for change. These are stories that deserve to be shared and that can inspire people around the world."
The position of Moroccan women is slowly changing. As the two RNW journalists type this blog in Casablanca, the powerhouse of Morocco, a silent revolution is taking place. Women are not shouting on the main squares of Cairo or Istanbul, but they are fighting for their rights in a different way.
Women, with or without veils, are at Starbucks with their smart phones and laptops, talking with their male or female friends, clearly enjoying life. The position of women under King Mohamed VI has considerably improved compared to the situation under the rule of his father, Hassan II.
Scenes such as this were inconceivable a few years ago in Morocco. According to Raja, "when I used to come here in the summer with my parents, there weren't any women in outdoor bars or smoking cigarettes outside. Women are now demanding equality. You see that they're sick and tired of being second-class citizens. That's what makes it interesting to follow developments here, especially as a Moroccan-Dutch woman.
"People have been telling me that I should come back more often to invest in this country as a woman and to help my fatherland grow. I must say that after two weeks of driving around Morocco, constantly waiting for appointments and experiencing the stench of exhaust fumes and honking, that I'm longing for the quiet of the Netherlands and the knowledge that people will arrive on time for appointments and answer their phones when I call. But Morocco and its schizophrenia continue to fascinate us. Margo and I will have to come back because there are so many other women who have beautiful stories to tell."