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Green March Glories Catapult Women’s Status: Their Crucial Role in Morocco’s Defining Epic

The Green March, a monumentally significant historic event in Morocco’s history, is often celebrated for its role in upholding its territorial integrity and for strengthening national unity. Yet, one aspect that deserves recognition is the significant participation of Moroccan women in this pivotal event.

This vitally important event in Morocco’s contemporary history is perhaps best encapsulated by the Late King Hassan II’s call in November, 1975 for a “Green March” of over 350,000 people to solidify the Kingdom’s unity and territorial integrity. A full 10% of the marchers were female, unarmed Moroccans who entered what was then the Sahara territory to demonstrate popular support for its annexation and recovery from Spain.

In this manner, Morocco regained its sovereignty over the Southern Provinces peacefully, while the marchers–including women from various regions of Morocco intending to reclaim their land–were holding only the Quran, the King’s photo, and Morocco’s flag in their hands.

The day prior, the Late King provided a motivational speech in which he said, “Tomorrow, God willing, you will pierce the border. Tomorrow, God willing, the Green March will be launched. Tomorrow, God willing, you will step on that part of your territory, touch the sand of your Sahara, and embrace the soil of your beloved homeland.”

For all these reasons, and more, the Green March was not solely a male endeavor. Women from diverse backgrounds played an essential role in this iconic event.

While men formed the majority of the marchers, women actively participated as well, as nurses, cooks, and in various other capacities. Their involvement was not merely symbolic; rather, their actions were evidence of their commitment to the holiest of national causes, while illustrating unequivocally their determination and commitment.

This contribution by Moroccan women to the ideals of the Green March is well-documented in various historical accounts and in contemporary narratives as by Michael Smith, and marked the continuing push for gender equality trending at that time, a type of shift in gender dynamics that also showed women’s crucially patriotic role within the Kingdom’s society.

The Green March clearly challenged traditional gender roles in Moroccan society. Women stepped outside their traditional roles of homemakers and caregivers, and began to take on active roles within the socio-political realm. Their participation marked a significant shift in the perception of what women’s roles and capabilities should encompass.

Yet, Moroccan women had already proven throughout history that they played a gigantic role in the Kingdom’s development, as argued by Khadija Anasse. She provides the examples of Kenza Elawrabiya (the wife of Moulay Driss I), who was pivotal in strengthening the pillars of the Idrisid Dynasty; and Adjou Mouh, an Attaoui Amazigh woman who participated convincingly in the Bougafer battle east of the Anti-Atlas and revolted against the French in 1934 and until her last days.

As noted by Laura Bennett, the Green March was instrumental in challenging gender norms, as women voluntarily and enthusiastically joined the ranks of their male counterparts in the nationalist movement. This participation inked women’s capacity to engage in activities that had been traditionally reserved for males, while simultaneously showcasing women as agents of meaningful political transition, capable of genuinely contributing to their nation’s future.

The Green March empowered women to take control of their destinies, a fact that is acknowledged by scholars, such as Nadia El-Messidi, in their work on the evolving role of women in Moroccan society.

This historical epic paved the way for increased awareness and recognition of women’s rights in Morocco, as described in detail by Michael Smith. It played a role in sparking conversations about gender equality, leading to the eventual progression of women’s rights in the Kingdom.

The legacy of women’s participation in the Green March endures in Morocco–particularly with respect to its impact on women–and is a watershed moment addressed comprehensively in contemporary research. It contributed to the rise of women in various professional fields, including politics, education, and in the overall workforce.

Moroccan women who participated in the Green March—along with their descendants who were inspired by their mothers’ or grandmothers’ involvement–have continued to make strides in all sectors of society.

Today, women hold positions in government, parliament, and local administration, and this transformation is a testament to the evolving role of women in Moroccan society.

This progression in women’s political participation is well-documented in studies–such as that of Amina Rahmouni–which addresses the changing landscape of Moroccan politics with an emphasis on women’s involvement.

While the Green March marked a significant turning point for women’s participation in Morocco, challenges and struggles for gender equality persist. The country continues to work towards achieving gender parity in various aspects of society, particularly with respect to political representation and economic empowerment.

These ongoing challenges–and the overall need for continued efforts to ensure gender equality–are explored in detail via reports compiled by international organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme. They serve to underscore the importance of addressing and correcting gender disparities in Morocco.

The Green March, a historical symbol of Moroccan unity and territorial integrity, also symbolizes a remarkable transformation in the role of women all across the nation. Women’s participation in the Green March challenged traditional gender norms and paved the way for greater gender equality and empowerment in Morocco. Their contributions deserve recognition as a vital part of the Green March’s enduring legacy. It could not have been achieved without them.