A divorced single parent in Morocco is determined to work as a wedding videographer despite resistance from her family.
In 2004, Morocco implemented the Moroccan Family Code (Moudawana) to improve women’s rights within a family and bring positive social change for women.
But nine years have passed since the implementation of these reforms and many believe that they have failed to bring real change for women in Morocco.
Witness follows Khadija, a single, divorced woman and single parent as she pursues a career as a wedding videographer in Morocco.
She has gained a level of independence outside the family home that was previously unthinkable, but her conservative family wants her to remarry and stop working, despite the fact that she is the chief breadwinner.
They are ashamed of the fact that she is divorced and appalled that her work means she often works late at night.
The film shows how the camera has liberated Khadija, and changed her life, while at the same time forcing her into a daily struggle to maintain her position as a woman in Moroccan society.
Editor’s note: This film was first broadcast on Al Jazeera English in November 2013.
By Karima Zoubir
Over the past few years I have become increasingly concerned about the extraordinary complexity of women’s rights in Morocco.
I have noticed how the impoverishment of the lower classes, together with the modernisation of society, has increased social pressure on women and young couples.
In modern Morocco, where an increasing number of women are finding independence through employment, young unemployed men see their roles within the family challenged and have all the more a problem seeing women work.
Paradoxically, the tougher the economic situation for the families gets, the harder it is for men to see their wives go out and work. As a matter of fact, the status of working women is still considered a luxury, reserved for the wealthier classes of our urban societies.
WATCH: Marriage and Divorce in Morocco
I felt that I needed to look at the situation of young, divorced Moroccan women who had supposedly benefited from the progressive divorce laws brought in under the reforms.
The reforms were ground breaking in terms of women’s rights compared with the rest of the Arab world, but I wanted to assess the real situation and highlight the repercussions of divorce on their daily lives.
Women can now ask for divorce. One would have hoped that this social progress would, at long last, allow women to choose their own destinies. But unfortunately, this is not the reality.
The majority of women asking for divorce have to waive any spousal maintenance while taking responsibility for supporting and raising their children. Under these conditions, divorced women have practically no chance of coping by themselves. And those asking for divorce must accept this “punishment”, as if it was the just price to pay to simply enjoy their freedom.
As a young Muslim Moroccan woman myself, making a film about the situation of these young divorced women very quickly became a necessity. We cannot go on burying our heads in the sand in the face of growing unease about working women in our society. If we do not honestly speak out against the present situation and critically look at ourselves, this unease will continue.
Without caricaturing, judging or accusing anyone, I wanted to show simple moments from an ordinary life which viewers would be able to identify with. I am convinced that it will help some women look at their lives and assess their own situation.
Khadija’s story tells so much about what it means to be a divorced woman attempting to live in the context of changing social standards for women in the Arab and Muslim world today.
Forced into getting married early to someone she was not compatible with, Khadija had an unhappy marriage. She decided to take advantage of the relatively new opportunity to divorce.
Once she got divorced, her family saw her status as shameful and urged her to remarry. But Khadija refused – all she wanted was a job to support herself, her family and most importantly, her son.
Due to a certain wave of growing conservatism, there were new employment opportunities opening up specifically for women, but mostly in the wedding sector: either filming the ceremony, taking photographs, serving as waitresses, dancers and playing music.
All these roles were previously held by men. However, an increasing number of families were now excluding men from these ceremonies unless they were blood relatives.
Khadija’s video camera has brought her such unpredicted freedom but also gives our camera, and thus the viewer, an inside look into the extraordinary complexity of a woman’s position in contemporary Morocco.
The marriages of the happy young couples she films starting a new life stand in sharp contrast with her own life as a struggling divorcee.
Working as a wedding videographer, Khadija is now the sole breadwinner of her family, taking care of her mother and brothers as well as her son.
But she often has to work late hours, which is a source of shame to her family. Her family complains that they are subject of gossip among the neighbours, who criticise her because she comes back late at night.
The impossible double standards that have emerged make Khadija’s life a constant challenge. She enjoys her job and needs to earn a living. But in some parts of the Arab world, where unemployment is high, a woman holding a job is still frowned upon in some conservative communities.
Far from the political and media debates surrounding the family law reforms, Casablanca Camerawomen aims to show the numerous obstacles facing women, obstacles set by a poorer and more conservative Moroccan society.