For our last day in Rabat, we decided that going out with a bang would be the best way to celebrate an end to our time in such a wonderful place. Having just said goodbye to our host families, lugged our belongings to the entrance of the Medina and onto the bus, we very abruptly had to snap into a professional mindset as the Parliament building was only minutes outside the wall of the Medina. At the entrance to the large and stately building we were greeting by several officials and organization members who were there to participate in our discussions. After shaking several hands, we were ushered into a large and beautiful conference room with long tables equipped with personal microphones and glasses of water. We sat down and introductions took place. Every representative there including ourselves expressed great gratitude and appreciation for the other’s attendance and willingness to share their time and ideas. To our delight, of trays of cookies and steaming Moroccan tea were brought out and offered to everyone shortly after we took our seats. There was a great deal of excitement on our part and it was much harder this time than any other to wait for the translations after every answer. Among those who spoke with us were the vice-president of Morocco’s Parliament Mohamed Yatim, and the president of the Democratic Party. Several NGO’s and Associations were present as well, including representatives from “Don’t Touch Our Children” and “Virtuous Women”. It was amazing to speak directly to these influential organization members and their answers helped give us an understanding of the significant role women are beginning to play in the political realm. The goal of several of the parties and organizations that spent time with us was to obtain a more equal gender balance among political representatives both in Parliament and at local levels. The crucial role our generation will need to play in transforming Moroccan society into a more free and equal place was emphasized by all.
After the proceedings took place and questions were answered, we left the conference room to mingle in the grand entrance and to make our way to the deputy’s chambers. We again sat down at a large conference table and we were again served tea and cookies while we took notes, listened carefully, and asked questions. The President of the Council Chamber was the main speaker this time and he invited us to voice our opinions and thoughts about our experience thus far in Morocco. Moroccan’s Abroad was the focus of his talk, and through this we learned more about the rights Moroccan nationals have beyond the country’s borders. A large focus of the government at present is working with the almost 15% of the Moroccan population which lives in other countries, and finding ways to preserve Moroccan culture in second and third generations abroad. We learned that the new National Constitution actually secures their right to vote, ensures the naturalization of their children regardless of place of birth, and makes provisions for social support through Islamic schools and programs in European countries. It was truly invigorating to be able to converse (as best we could with the language barriers) with prominent representatives of the government and organizations. We were overjoyed with their willingness to meet us and were blown away by their interest in our goals as a research group.
After this second meeting we were shown the large room where representatives of all party members sit for the official Parliament proceedings. As we were told by a cheerful guard, the room was the equivalent of “your American Senate”. It was incredibly stately with an ornately carved, wooden ceiling and lush carpet underfoot. We left the building with much hand shaking and picture taking. It was such a rare and incredible experience to be able to meet and share ideas with people from all different backgrounds and political standings. It was definitely one of the main events of the overall trip and I know that all of us will hold our time in the Moroccan Parliament fondly in our memories.
-Fallon and Claire