(23 Feb 2020) LEAD IN:
In a conservative coastal town, Morocco’s women are defying tradition.
They ride boats and fish for a living.
In this Moroccan town, the sea is in everyone’s lives.
Even the women here fish for a living.
” The sea is my heart, my soul and my life and the lives of my children and the people of the region. We live in and from the sea,” says Fatima Mekhnas, a local fisherwoman.
Mekhnas and a group of women go out on the water every day.
They are trying to develop their skills as fisherwomen.
Back on the mainland, they are also taking first-aid and rescue-at-sea lessons in case their boat capsizes.
Their instructor is Mechti Thami who works at the Technology Institute of Fishing (ITPM) in the town of Larrache.
“Our goal is to enhance the socio-economic conditions of this category that we could call a vulnerable category. Why not?” he says.
The 19 fisherwomen are part of an all-female cooperative created in March 2018, the first of its kind in an industry that employs more than 40,000 people in Morocco and has an annual turnover of more than 2 billion dirhams ($205 million).
Being able to work on the sea is really important for these women.
“In our cooperative, we stitch nets, we fish in the sea with our boats, we repair nets,” explains Mekhnas. “We had our first training on nets and thank God we received diplomas and we also did a training in conserving marine resources and we’ll receive diplomas soon. Thank God.”
In a conservative society like Morocco’s, the women still meet resistance.
“When I was young, I loved to go fishing but the boys would laugh at me. They didn’t like the fact that a girl was fishing. When I went fishing at night, they would taunt me. You know? They used to hurt me a lot with their words. But now I am really glad that other women have joined me. I no longer feel alone and I’m no longer hurt as I used to,” says Fatiha Naji.
The women feel empowered by their work and say they got to change perceptions.
“It’s not shameful anymore. Women used to do everything at home, raise their kids at home, care for their husband at home. But thank God now we have our rights.”
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