From Exclusion to Empowerment: Land Rights for Women (Morocco)

Soulaliyate Gathering

A study conducted by the Landesa World Development Institute identified that communal lands are vital to mitigating climate change and that rural communities with secure land rights are often better environmental stewards. An estimated 50 percent of the world’s land is held under communal systems, but in over half of the world women experience legal and cultural barriers to securing land rights. Since 2007, WLP’s partner in Morocco, L’Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM), has worked closely on collective land issues with Soulaliyates, rural tribal women in Morocco. Over a decade ago, one woman’s courage to stand up to discriminatory land policies in her village led to a partnership between the Soulaliyate women and ADFM that has mobilized hundreds of other women to take action and claim their rights.
This collaboration has resulted in many important advances for women’s rights in Morocco. In 2017, ADFM helped organize a three-week advocacy campaign in which over 600 Soulaliyate women and allies traveled from Fez to Daraa-Tafilalt to the Rabat-Sale regions. The caravan of women brought the issue of women’s land rights to the attention of policymakers in Morocco. During this three-month-long campaign, ADFM held 16 communications and advocacy workshops that targeted 660 women from 30 different ethnic groups. These workshops helped equip Soulaliyate women to become participatory leaders and advocates for their rights. 

In July of 2018, the Soulaliyate women achieved a major legal victory when the women of Kenitra province were given equal land rights to the men in their communities. Specifically, in the Ben Mansour tribe, women were given financial compensation for previously transferred lands, and in the Ouled Mbarek tribe, women were given plots of land alongside men. Later in 2018, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI announced significant agricultural and land reforms, and the Ministry of Interior established new methods for identifying land rights holders. 

Soulaliyate Organizing December 2020

ADFM continued workshops to reach more Soulaliyate women and build solidarity between women from different regions and tribes. Their effort to grow the Soulaliyate network proved essential when, in December 2020, a new Government Council decree (No. 2.19.973) included language that pushed back on women’s equal land rights. WLP Morocco and the Soulaliyate women coordinated a national drive to collect 20,000 signatures in support of revising the decree that makes continuous residence on the land obligatory for an individual to acquire the status of being a member of the communal land beneficiaries/tribe. For historical reasons, many of which are the result of discrimination, Soulaliyate women are too often unable to reside on the land.

ADFM’s senior workshop facilitator, Khadija Oueldammou, believes that despite the obstacles still encountered by women on collective land, the situation of the Soulaliyates today is greatly improved. “Empowerment efforts have led to the awareness of Soulaliyates all over Morocco that they are entitled to collective lands on the same footing as men,” says Oueldammou. “They now have the skills and the tools to organize themselves to demand this right.”

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