Friday, November 15, 2013

The Position of Women in Moroccan Society Improving - Slowly

The situation of women in Morocco is improving, according to Morocco's Delegate Minister for Higher Education Soumia Benkhaldoun

"The condition of women in our country is improving step by step: since 2011, the number of female ministers rose from 1 to 6 on a total of 39, while the percentage of women in key positions rose from 5% to 16%," Benkhaldoun said ahead of a meeting of the cultural commission of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Parliamentary Assembly at Italy's Lower House.

"And that's not bad at all," said the engineer, university professor, and founding member of the Islamist ruling Justice and Development Party, who was appointed minister in October this year. "Things are improving, but there is still a lot to be done".

"We took several steps forward in terms of legislation in 2003, 2006 and 2011." she said, "In Parliament, there are 67 women out of 393 MPs. That's approximately 17.8%, slightly under the European average of 22%. But we need more women in all key roles in society'" Benkhaldoun said, adding that women as well as men must change their mentality. "This is an old story, which all Mediterranean women share".

Delegate Minister for Higher Education Soumia Benkhaldoun

In the case of Morocco, a more integrated family policy is needed. "We still need to put in place policies that favour part-time work, telecommuting, and state-run kindergartens," the minister pointed out. "We are still far from the family policies adopted by Scandinavian countries."

Benkhaldoun, whose ministry is also in charge of scientific research and executive training, wants to develop that sector through international cooperation: "Moroccan budget, international expertise - such as Italy's, for example," she explained. "We need to develop our energy and geophysics sectors. Also, our country is rich in medicinal herbs, which could have many applications in the health care field".

Her government, she said, needs to increase its scientific research budget, which is currently 0.8% of national GDP. "In developed countries, that number is 2.3%," she pointed out. International cooperation is the key. "We just obtained 30-million-euro extra-budget financing to field projects that will be open to foreign research labs as well," said Benkhaldoun.

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