Turns out, the glass ceiling is proving all too troublesome for high-profile candidates around the globe this year. A month before Hillary Clinton was denied the White House in the U.S. presidential election, a popular politician in Morocco withstood a difficult setback. Nabila Mounib, a 56-year-old endocrinology professor and mother of three from Morocco who serves as leader of the country’s United Socialist Party, making her the country’s top female politician, has announced that she will not run for re-election as the party’s head after an alliance between her party and two others, known as the Federation of the Democratic Left, failed to secure enough votes to be represented in the country’s parliament.
Women wielding political power are a rarity in Morocco, where hold 20 percent of parliamentary seats are held by females — thanks, in large part, to a women’s quota. Mounib, who says her interest in politics was cultivated by a father who served as a foreign diplomat, engaged in a national campaign as the Federation attempted to compete with the country’s dominant Islamist and pro-monarchy factions. Dressed in a white campaign T-shirt, jeans, and orange sneakers, Mounib reached out to rural voters with promises to narrow the wealth gap, combat nepotism, and improve education.
For Chenna Hadhoum, a 38-year-old municipal clerk, Mounib is a symbol of pride. Noting that many women in her community must ask their husbands for permission to leave the house, Hadhoum says that Mounib “gives strength to women because she is capable and equal to a man.”
Mounib says that sexism has proven a difficult obstacle to overcome — even in her own party. Male colleagues, she recalled, tried to make her let a man handle her media duties. Even her decision to step aside as leader following her party’s defeat, she added, might be different were she a man. “Men have made so many mistakes, and they have made disastrous decisions, and you still find them in the same positions,” observed Mounib.
Regardless of the results of her efforts, Mounib says that she won’t back off from her goal of building a more accepting, diverse, and equitable Morocco. “I want a Morocco,” Mounib said, “where equality between a man and a woman means that a woman can walk outside in a hijab or in shorts and be happy about being a woman.”
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