Business, Finance & Economics

Educating women in Morocco

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(Image by Flickr user Adam Axon (cc:by))

This article was originally reported by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

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The Moroccan constitution has no fewer than three articles guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens. And plenty of women have managed to rise to prominence in the country. In 2009, Marrakech, one of Morocco's biggest cities, elected its first woman mayor,

In general, though, female literacy lags behind male literacy throughout the country, and girls lack access to many of the educational resources that boys do. That is why the Moroccan chapter of the nonprofit Soroptimists decided to open up a tuition-free boarding school specifically for girls.

"I definitely think Morocco is deeply changing," the school's co-founder Leila Binebine told PRI's The World. "Will is everything." Binebine is trying to apply that will to improving her home country. She asks, "How can you call yourself a citizen if you do not take part in the development of your country? The citizens, people have to make the change. We are the change."

Part of the reason why a boarding school was necessary was because schools are often too far away from children. One student told The World that her school "was very very far, that's why I came here and I was given a really golden opportunity." She also believes she is benefiting from her time at the school:

You know such boarding houses teach you a lot. You learn how to be far from your parents you learn how to be independent, how to interact with other people and you learn how to treat them.

The school teaches a version of Islam that emphasizes gender equality, and Binebine believes the school has gained the trust and support of parents throughout the country. "The girls that we bring from the country, their parents are not intellectual," says Binebine, "they have never been to the city, and they are supporting us."

Challenges remain, but the school's founders believe they have already accomplished a lot. Touria Binebine, who co-founded the school with her sister Leila, told The World:

We are a poor country. We have no cars, no diamonds, nothing. But we did build a boarding house for 200 girls, and we did find the money. So we are Soroptimists, and in Soroptimists you have optimism, and we're optimistic.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."