Keep Your Daughters in School… Not the Kitchen by Maroua Cherkaoui, Morocco

My mother startled me one recent evening when she told me to wear something nice because we were getting visitors.

I know all my parents’friends, so what was so special about these guests? Despite my concern, I did as my mother asked. I wore one of my simple modern dresses and a scarf as usual. A few minutes later, a father and his son arrived at our home.

I helped my mother in the kitchen as I usually do. But then she kept telling me to be polite. What is going on here?

While I was serving tea – my dad asked me to sit down. imageThen his friend started a conversation with me. He asked if I remembered him. But I did not. He explained that he and my father were good friends, and that he wanted to solidify that friendship through marriage!

He wanted me to marry his son. I was quite shocked. I looked to my dad for help. My dad suggested that I spend some time with my ‘proposed husband’ – so we could get to know each other. The guy seemed to be nice and he was educated. What could I lose from talking to him?

What surprised me about the whole thing is that my parents never told me about this. My father, especially, has always pushed me to focus on my studies. I never suspected that he would want to marry me off at 19 !

But my father quickly abandoned the idea when the young man and his father requested that I had to quit my studies.

My dad was furious. He did not think that his friend would be so closed-minded and ignorant to want a girl to drop out of school.

I say Hamdullah for my enlightened father. He has a PhD – and he wants me to get mine and pursue other higher educational and career opportunities.

I do realize that not many Moroccan girls have fathers like mine. It is a sad fact that in the 21st Century some girls in Morocco still have to choose between a husband and an education. We’re still stuck in this societal norm that encourages girls, especially those in rural areas, to get married at 14 or 15. The 2004 Mudawana code banned underage marriage, but the law is not enforced. Fathers in rural villages are marrying off their teenage daughters to old men, some old enough to be their grandfathers !

As a society, we need to enforce Mudawana so that we can keep more girls in the classrooms until they finish high school and eventually move on to university.

What if my father was not enlightened? Where would I be? Perhaps, I would be barefoot and pregnant or married with two children, cooking, cleaning and baking bread all day long.

Today, I am a second-year university student majoring in English studies and actively involved in club activities at the university. I am a citizen journalist with GlobalGirl Media, a program that encourages young women to give voices to issues in their communities. Early marriage is one of those issues affecting Moroccan society. I am also one of the young student leaders in the Yala online academy. I am also a part of Yala Young leaders’ movement that is seeking peace and equality in the MENA region.

Ten years from now, I hope to accomplish my academic goals and pursue a career as a leading female diplomat, advocating for young people and women in the region.

Maroua Cherkaoui, Morocco
YaLa Young Leaders
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