Since young women listed family opposition and responsibilities at home as their two main reasons for not entering the workforce, governments and NGOs need to design programs that address these issues specifically. In Morocco and the MENA, there is a desperate need for women’s empowerment. Women need self-confidence and the ability to advocate for their ambitions, otherwise they will continue to be consigned to the domestic sphere. The duties of childcare, cooking, and cleaning are placed almost solely on women, making it difficult for them to work outside the home. Incentive programs for employers to provide services that ease the domestic burden on women, such as free daycare centers, paid maternity leave, etc., would significantly help women enter the workforce. Additionally, more focus should be given to the creation of women’s cooperatives, especially in rural regions. Cooperatives allow women to collectively manage their businesses, which means they set their own schedules, and are thus in a better position to accommodate both household and work responsibilities.
Existing strategies to increase women’s presence in the workforce are not working. Since 2016, the High Atlas Foundation has been conducting a women’s empowerment program in Morocco that integrates Moudawana with a self-discovery process, bringing women together to unlock their socioeconomic potential. Often, this program (developed in conjunction with the Empowerment Institute) results in the creation of cooperatives, where rural women pool their resources and talent to start their own entreprises. If sustainable change is to occur, governments and NGOs need to take a participatory approach that focuses on the self-identified obstacles and needs of women.
Katherine O’Neill is studying International Relations at Claremont McKenna College; she is interning with the High Atlas Foundation for the summer.