Women's empowerment in the Maghreb : Gains and Gaps

Women's empowerment in the Maghreb : Gains and Gaps
Mark Seddon

This week marked the beginning of Ramadan, and an opportunity also for the World to take stock of the vital contribution of women and girls at a time of increased conflict.  In his remarks to the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York this week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said; ‘Women and girls are suffering most from wars waged by men’. He also pointed out that; ‘globally, poverty has a female face. Women have less access to land, natural resources and financial assets. They suffer the impacts of climate change more than men. And they are more likely to be food insecure.’  

Guterres’ call to action is for a Sustainable Development Goals Stimulus that would provide $500 billion annually in affordable long-term finance for developing countries. The proposal includes a debt lifeline to create breathing space for countries facing near impossible repayment schedules.  

Also speaking at the Session was Morocco’s Minister of Solidarity, Social Integration and Family, Aawatif Hayar. She said; ‘Our ambition is to continue building an advanced and dignified Morocco. It is therefore essential that all Moroccans, men and women alike, play an active part in the development dynamic. She also recalled how, in 2023, the King of Morocco began the process of updating the Family Code by assigning judicial, legal, religious, and governmental authorities to oversee the development of this reform. 

Every country faces challenges, none more so than in the global South, but clearly it is important to recognise progress where it is made. Gender inequalities still exist across the Maghreb but sometimes when progress is made it is not always given the attention that it deserves.  For instance, in Morocco in 2021, Parliament adopted a reform that did not receive much attention but did represent a big step forward in helping close the country’s gender gap. It involved a new amended law on public limited companies to promote balanced representation of women and men in corporate governance bodies. It set mandatory quotas for women on the boards of publicly traded companies, with a target of (at least) 30% female representation by 2024, and 40% by 2027. 

The World Bank, supported this effort as one of the key objectives of its $450 million Digital and Financial Inclusion II budget support programme for the Moroccan government in 2021. The Morocco initiative will therefore be an important reference point for a wider process of formulating goals for the Global Digital Compact which will be at centre stage of the UN Summit of the Future in September in New York. 


*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

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