As an activist and gender scholar, Souad Slaoui works hard to raise awareness about equality among women from all social categories, ages and levels of education.
Souad’s activism for gender equality has very personal roots. As the first daughter in a family of five brothers and one other sister, she says, “I was all the time spoiled as the first daughter in the family, but never considered as equal to my brothers or capable of having the same chances as them.” Now, as the only child in her family to have pursued higher education, Souad has overcome many obstacles.
Souad hopes to give other women and girls access to similar opportunities. “What frustrates me most is when I see educated and highly intellectually people (both men and women) blocking women and creating obstacles for them in order not to hold higher positions because of their patriarchal mentalities that believe that those positions can only be held by men,” she says.
By collaborating with local NGOs and international networks as part of the Vital Voices Policy Advocates program, Souad’s work on the issue of early marriage in Morocco was one of the program's most successful initiatives. She and her colleagues put pressure on local authorities and attracted considerable media attention to efforts to end the harmful practice.
The campaign was the first of its kind to publically discuss the "taboo" subject. According to Souad, the campaign had a significant impact on parents and educators, due to its unprecedented use of media to inform and sensitize public opinion regarding the effects on girls of early marriage.
“It is not that easy to change mentalities and the patriarchal system — which stand at the heart of Moroccan society — in a very short lapse of time. But we need to believe in what we are doing, and to pursue this long march of struggle to reach our goals to entertain the same rights as men at all levels of life,” Souad explains.
Souad is inspired