In the space of 50 years, Moroccan agriculture has made great strides in terms of modernisation and diversification, and now accounts for around 14% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Agriculture is still the leading employer in the country, far ahead of other economic sectors: 40% of the active population earn their living in this sector, and agricultural exports account for 15 to 21% of all exports.
The free trade agreements signed between Morocco and the EU, which came into effect in the 2000s, aimed to help modernise the agricultural sector, but above all to reduce poverty and inequalities.
Since these agreements were signed and the Green Morocco Plan was launched, seeking to make Moroccan farming a key driver of development, this sector has continued to face major, systematic challenges, such as the fact that rural populations remain mired in poverty and economic vulnerability, with illiteracy helping to keep them in a precarious and vulnerable situation.
Working women, who account for more than 90% of the agricultural workforce, see how their basic labour rights are too often violated: a decent wage, social security and protection or dignified recruitment and transport conditions. Unfortunately, they do not have the means necessary to defend their rights because most of them do not have regular contracts.
Patriarchal social norms confine women to a limited range of tasks in a specific sector of the value chain, limiting their access to better opportunities and making their situation even more precarious.
Faced with this alarming situation, Oxfam in Morocco has implemented a programme since 2009 to improve the working conditions of women in the agricultural sector. This programme is based on the following pillars:
- Strengthening local civil society
Oxfam in Morocco has created a civil society initiative to raise working women's awareness of their rights and to support workers whose rights are violated.
The stakeholders involved in this initiative have put in place mechanisms to promote “active citizenship”, with working women as key actors to monitor public policies as well as to questionning decision-makers and leaders in relation to the working conditions of women in the agricultural sector.
- Strengthening the transformative leadership of working women
Getting to know their own rights is key to improve women’s working conditions, as it is strengthening their organisational and leadership skills. In doing so, working women can have a say to change their own situation, claim for their rights and influence decision-making processes that affect their lives.
In this context, Oxfam has encouraged women to have an increased role in awareness-raising campaigns, data collection mechanisms and the development of advocacy strategies.
- Positive dialogue with public institutions and the national and international private sector
The programme’s approach is based on positive dialogue and influence. This means that Oxfam wants to encourage best practices, respect for decent work and the search for solutions by using an approach involving all the relevant stakeholders in the sector, from producers to supermarkets and the public institutions concerned.
This approach also aims is to influence and change the policies related to Oxfam’s work on inequality and which may have a positive impact on the target populations Oxfam works with. This is why Oxfam has been exploring reforms of the status of seasonal workers or the use of Blockchain technology as an innovative means to monitor working conditions, the recruitment and transport system, as well as how harassment is handled in the workplace.
It has been proved beyond argument that to effectively reduce inequalities and for Morocco’s integration into globalised value chains in a way that is beneficial to workers, dignified work and a fair sharing of responsibilities are key.
Therefore, it is necessary not only to keep improving laws and policies ensuring decent work for inequality reduction, but also to transform societies in far-reaching, profound and lasting ways. To do so, we need to achieve a change in our minds and hearts –values, attitudes and beliefs- regarding power relations between men and women.