Introduction to the report on the development and education of women of Morocco presented to the Third Conference of the Association of Moslem Students of North Africa which was to take place in Fez in early 1933. The participants, representing Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, arrived in Fez only to discover that the meeting was forbidden at the last minute by the authorities of the protectorate for reasons still unknown. The meeting was finally held on December 26 of that same year in Paris. The call for papers for this conference included topics on Moroccan education such as the status of male and female instructors, higher education in Morocco and abroad, and the status of traditional and modern primary education in Morocco. Said, pursuing his studies in Syria, was not able to attend but he did submit this introduction and his report to the conference committee for consideration. Unfortunately only this introduction has survived.

My dear colleagues,

  1. It is a great pleasure for me to be in touch with the community of young students from the Maghreb studying in France and to propose how you can prepare for the final stages of your development and your aspirations. Let us take this occasion, within the walls of this room where our hearts beat as one, to be aware that as men called upon to take on tomorrow's responsibilities we must fulfill this mission by working towards the unity of our culture and towards our spiritual nourishment. And so let us pledge before The Almighty and before our conscience to always serve the general interest.

    The future is ours, my colleagues. In our hands we hold the reins of this future with all the power of our identity, our beliefs and our faith. It behooves us to know each other better and to become well acquainted with the problems we share in common so we may confront them together with courage and determination and to contribute effectively to the national rebuilding of our respective homelands. We must consider ourselves as soldiers mobilized to battle the scourge of illiteracy inflicting the Moroccan population and to inculcate our fellow brothers with the desire to persist in the efforts demanded by the pursuit of study and the will to succeed. At the same time, we must also grant our attention to the other half of the social body confined by these four walls, who in many ways are closer to death than life, and to take care to save them from the claws of misery and deprivation.

  2. The first schooling in life begins in the shelter of the family and the first teacher is the mother. The natural tendencies of a child's character and psychology take root during its earliest childhood, under the influence of its surroundings and accompany it throughout its life. I regret to see Moroccan women in the unenviable situation in which they find themselves for we owe them everything, from their efforts to raise us to their being the cornerstone of our basic education. I am pained to see Moroccan women in such state for they have reared not only a child but a whole nation.

    I entreat you, dear colleagues, in the name of the patriotic faith which stirs in us, to examine closely the state of affairs in which our women find themselves today. Let us appreciate for its true worth the enormous effort they spend instilling in the minds of our children the desire and courage to live properly. And yet let us also be aware of what level of education she has at her disposal with which to forge their young minds in preparation for their ascent of the highest summits of culture and maturation. On the latter matter, without any doubt we find ourselves facing a situation which brings much sadness and hurt.

  3. We must help each other, we whose veins run with youthful vigor, to ward off the danger and to conceive of a more dignified place for women in our society. Our duty is to educate them and to give them the necessary skills so they can fulfill their mission in the best possible manner. By taking this action, we will have planted the first seed for a new and more fruitful future. We need to mobilize ourselves and to demand the creation of institutions of primary education for young women . We need to buttress this mobilization with a full-fledged public relations campaign to show the importance the nation attaches to the education of its female citizenry and to demonstrate that we, the Moroccans people, wish to make up lost time by welcoming this new focus with fervor and enthusiasm. The view of educating women needs to mature in our thinking so as to allow us to recover from our long, wasteful, and unfair sleep.

    This duty is incumbent on all us, we, the youth of this land. We cannot have any valid claims to a better future if we do not act on these initiatives imposed on us and if we do not mobilize our energies and know-how to reach this goal. But for this vision to become true, then each of us must act in a serious and practical manner. Make your home a school for members of your family. Dedicate one hour or two each day to instruct and teach them. Don't wait until a decision is finally reached to open schools for young girls. Let us therefore go to work now in earnest. If not, I see only continued adversity in our homes for the very young where their lives take root.

  4. Our grandparents - may The Almighty forgive them - have displayed a complete lack of interest about the fate of women and considered them much like objects such as one would consider for example, house furniture. They leave us with the impression they have been oblivious to the imprints left in their minds from their mother's early childhood upbringing and the incontestable influence that has had on them and the rest of the human community. Why should we be astonished therefore that we have reached this level of degeneration and regression from our true destiny? We will be at our best behavior when women are allowed to fully assume their responsibilities at home, to properly teach their young the respect for values and to inculcate in them a conduct impregnated by virtuous and worthy behavior. We must never forget the huge sacrifice that the mother does in rearing her children.

    The women of Morocco have played a major role in its history. They have been the backbone of the nation on many occasions. It suffices to take a quick look at the internationally known Karaouiyine university, to recall that it was founded by a woman. As this introduction does not allow me to go into further details, I will limit myself to mentioning the name "La Kahina" to evoke her courage and strength of character. This is our vision of a role women in Moroccan society must play as time goes by. We wish she would regain her luster and glory so she may enable the rebirth of prestige and dignity to her land and people.

  5. We can only be astonished that womanhood has degraded to the lowest possible level despite our religion. Prior to Islam women were entirely dependent on men and had no personal identity. Islam pulled women back from the precipice of deprivation and granted them a privileged position next to men. It provided women with equity, allowed them to enjoy their rights and it opened the door to them for knowledge and learning. Those are the guidelines it advocated and called for with passion.

    We had respected these guidelines in Morocco for a long period of time but, through apathy and indolence, we began to ignore them. After awhile we even pretended that it was the religion itself that was at the origin of the lack of respect of these prescriptions; while in fact it was totally innocent. Where is the quote in the sacred text of our religion that forbids women to educate themselves and to grow? Where is this verse in the Koran that prescribes to man, even implicitly, to oppose the education of women and their instruction, my dear colleagues?

All of this past history led us to our current state of regression and immobility, a sorry state which can be interpreted to be due to the shameful lack of appreciation for women's contributions to the education and nurturing of humanity's sprouting seeds to prepare them for adulthood and its unending struggles. Hence it is in our collective interest to return back to the sacred book and to the prophet's traditions in order to apply to women their teachings and recommendations.

I am sufficiently realistic to not go as far as to demand that the Maghreb women should gain absolute freedom and to enjoy political rights as is advocated by some currents of our country's youth, following similar calls from certain Arab nations in the east. I am convinced that the eminent role is the one which is delegated to women and which no one else can fulfill as well whatever their efforts. As for me, I think a woman because she is a woman, is an indispensable element, not necessarily to enter into competition with men at a social level but she is indispensable to fulfill the mission mentioned earlier that nature has assigned for her. However my main concern is that she needs to be well educated, well aware of what is happening in the world and in total control of domestic affairs, that she inculcates in the minds of her children the respect of family values and strengthens in them patriotic trust that is the base of righteousness and integrity. This is what we are looking forward to at this hour from Maghreb women. Are we ready to proceed to the stage of execution? May The Almighty grant us our wish. [8]

My dear colleagues.

I have presented you with a brief introduction of my report on the status of the Maghreb women that I submit for your review and which I hope will become part of the recommendations of your conference. The Almighty will guarantee your success.

[8] It is useful to remember that this presentation was intended for a conference which took place in December of 1933 right in the middle of the industrial revolution in the western world where woman's place in western society posed several unanswered problems on several political, legal and professional levels. It was not until 1936 and 1944 that French women could participate in the workforce and they had to wait until 1945 for their civil rights to be recognized.

In the United States considerable progress was achieved during the early twentieth century in recognizing women's role in society. Education was generally universal and a significant number of women had joined labor unions; their participation in the workforce grew as a consequence of the two world wars and the need to fill the jobs left open by men going to war. Progress was not easy and many years of persistence were necessary. Voting rights to all women were granted under the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 after over 70 years of struggle during which, some states had allowed women full voting rights, others had allowed partial voting privileges, and some had even retracted their rights. The Equal Rights Amendment first proposed in 1923 by the Woman's National Party to grant equal protection under the law to all regardless of race, creed, and gender has yet to be passed despite several attempts.