I also find that parents don’t have high expectations for their girls’ education. Perhaps they can’t imagine anything beyond their own experience or maybe they are pessimistic about the general economic situation. Even if their daughters attend high school, parents consider that education for a housewife is not necessary. I challenge that point of view because many of their daily tasks depend on being able to read, write and do math. For example, when they go to the hanut (corner store) they need to read food labels or read instructions on how to use household items. Medicines, too, require reading! When they pay at the hanut or the weekly souk (market), they need to know how to add and subtract, especially if they are quoted the price in Riyals but are paying in Dirhams. Housewives need to be able to calculate household expenses per day and week based on the family income. Unfortunately, I’ve observed that the majority of women don’t actually go to the hanut or souk in my community; they depend on their husbands or sons to shop.
Women’s space is comfortably in the home. Some of the important tasks that women have in the home besides cooking and cleaning are caring for children, being a role model, carrying out family traditions and upholding the family’s status in the community.
Financial problems and Khadija’s story
Some young women face financial difficulties and must help out their families instead of completing their education. Because boys are expected to be the breadwinners, their education is prioritized over the girls who are expected to be the housewives. Such is the case of Khadija. She is 31 years old and works at the preschool in her duar and volunteers at the association for the girls’ dormitory in town. She didn’t graduate high school and her studies at a vocational school were interrupted when her father got sick. She started working at age 19 to support her family of 7 (both of her sisters were married at a young age). She wishes that she could have continued studying, but there really was no choice. I find it admirable that she took on all that responsibility, placing her family’s needs before her own.
As a workingwoman and unmarried at age 31, Khadija is an anomaly in my village. She is the breadwinner of her family. She gives her father money to buy food at the weekly souk, her mother to buy household items or clothes, and she makes the big financial decisdions for the family, like buying a new TV or cupboard or organizing an excursion into Marrakesh to visit family.
Khadija would love to get married and have a family, but her responsibility to provide for her family weighs on her. She claims that men don’t like working, independent women. Men believe that a woman’s place is in the home. They might also be jealous of other men at their wives’ work place, and husbands generally don’t want to see their women interacting with men that are not in their family. If Khadija gets married, she would have to continue supporting her family or her husband would need to take on that responsibility. Khadija and other friends have asked me to set them up with an American or Spanish friend because they believe Western men are more open than Moroccan men. They say Western men would allow them to wear what they want, come and go as they please, work, and allow some degree of independence.
There is also the notion that if a woman works, she doesn’t have a good husband. She is called meskina (poor thing). The man is supposed to work and take care of her. She can just relax at home.