Morocco – an exotic African and Arabian country, the land of diversity, full of colors, flavors, sounds and smells – full of life. It is one of those places you wish to come back to, which grows on you. Being such a popular travel destination lately, it is needless to say that Morocco has a lot to offer.
However, offering your service in this country, takes it all to the next level. You have a chance to experience all these things from up close. It makes a lot of difference since you get to really know the people, see their habits and customs so different than yours but still notice so many common points. It makes you move your limits and find new freedom within.
Morocco was my first volunteering experience. Following my background in law, and personal inclination towards Human Rights, I chose a program of Advancing Women’s Rights in Rabat. I was placed in a local organization that deals with interpretation of Quran and the whole Islamic heritage to promote equality and advance women’s rights.
The current level of protection of women’s rights in Morocco is a result and specific combination of Islamic values, cultural heritage, historic circumstances, and mentality questions. Social status also greatly affects how women’s rights are interpreted.
The Center promotes alternative interpretation of religion, the one that respects evolution in women’s position in the society and in the family, but also holds on to traditional values that are embedded in Moroccan culture.
And while Morocco will surely be undergoing further changes in this area, simply because the reality of life demands so, the Center is also challenged with the view of Islamic feminism compared to Western feminist movement. The west often does not consider the differences between the cultures and regions from which particular feminism has grown. Having in mind those differences, the feminism in Morocco looks unlike the feminism in a Western European country. Thus, they speak of so-called “third way” that does not blindly accept all the values of Western societies nor uncritically observes its own tradition. The “third way” calls for – the same freedom of choice for all.
The volunteers are contributing to the program by offering the view of the outsider on the situation with women’s rights in Morocco, once they get acquainted with the historical, religious and legal background in family relations.
Clearly, the atmosphere of the Center as well as the assignment of this program is academic and educational. Many interesting things are learned and inspiring topics are discussed. Ilyaas Bouzghaia, who is the lead researcher at the Center gladly welcomes students, scholars and other visitors who are interested in studying these thought-provoking themes.
As for my spare time, I did some exploration of the country as well. Morocco has a well-developed railway infrastructure. Thus, it is easy and relatively inexpensive to travel by train to visit the whole urban Morocco. I took chances and visited 5 cities besides Rabat where I was placed. This made the whole experience complete since I got to learn about the history, religion and customs and then see it all in practice across different regions of this country.
Offering your service abroad is a fantastic opportunity for personal growth. It is an opportunity to examine your values and the values of the world you are coming from. Often times, we are so conditioned by the environment we live in that we lose our capability to really understand a manner and thinking different than ours.
I believe that it is of value for each individual to challenge himself into understanding, real understanding of differences. Moreover, the occasion to go on a journey outside your comfort zone gives you an opportunity to examine your life from a new perspective, and likely find a new appreciation of it.
My journey was, without a shed of doubt, an enriching experience that I am looking forward to repeat.