Gender, intersectionality, and migration
Moroccan women migrants in Europe and Afro-American women: a comparison
There are a few significant similarities between Moroccan women migrants in Europe and African-American women in the United States. Like African-American women, Moroccan women migrants in Europe continue to suffer from steep poverty and unemployment rates that are 42% higher than white women— they find themselves in marginalization positions within society.60 The concept of intersectionality, which grew out of the black feminist movement,61 helps us understand the ways in which both African-American and Moroccan migrant women are marginalized and provides a lens through which to examine both of their lived experiences. The intersectionality paradigm analyzes marginalized and oppressed women combining their multiple identities, including social class, ethnic identity, migration status, gender, and power. The paradigm posits that it is the combination of the multiple identities, that cannot be analyzed in isolation, that contributes to the unique lived experiences of a particular group.
Thus far, this chapter has applied a descriptive approach to examining the impact of intersectionality on marginalized women’s lives—examining the history of why Moroccan women have migrated to Europe and how their migration results in a transformative experience for the women and the communities in which they reside. From this description, my readings, and my data analysis, three salient themes emerge and connect with intersectionality. The first, self-sacrifice, depicts how these women’s actions and behavior reflect a historical tendency of altruistic giving, sharing, and caring for their families, friends, and entourage. Women are often relegated to gendered roles where they are categorized as caregivers. In these overly gendered roles, both African-American and Moroccan
Moroccan women migrants in Europe 169 women migrants are expected to act in self-sacrificing ways where their own needs are subjugated to the needs of their communities. Similarly, African-American women were kept in “the roles of provider, nurturer, and protector, which were necessary for the survival of the Black family unit in a White, male-dominant society.”62 For Moroccan migrant women, this phenomenon is displayed in their work, sharing of remittances, and even in the leadership positions in which they obtain in becoming the voice to speak for migrant women, Muslim women, and women in the Maghreb. The self-sacrificing role acknowledges that Moroccan migrant women cannot be seen solely in their roles as a woman, migrant, Moroccan, or Muslim. It is at the intersection of these identities in which the Moroccan migrant woman subsumes herself to constantly place the family and communities’ needs above her own. Like African-American women, the strength and adaptability of Moroccan migrant women have proved critical to maintaining the family unit in the community. They have often undertaken the responsibility of heads-of-household while living with limited resources.
The second theme, marginalization, describes how both African-American and Moroccan migrant women are relegated to the margins of society. Intersec-tionality unpacks how African-American women and Moroccan migrant women have endured life at the margins at the intersection. Marginalization can only be understood as a concept in that it expounds on how societal factors such as discrimination, oppression, and power relations combine to shape the lives and experiences of these marginalized women. When examined disjointedly, the consequences of segregation, repression, and domination have proven to have a harmful effect on their social lives and psychological and physiological health.6'’ Other researchers have elucidated that the nervous tension of life at the margins when coupled with racism and xenophobia leads to physical ailments and curtails life expectancy.64
The third theme, invisibility, illustrates how these women remain invisible individuals, in spite of their productivity. It is my argument that, like African-American women, Moroccan women migrants in Europe have multiple identities and individual factors that intersect to contribute to their remaining at the margins—unemployed and poor. However, there are negative results of female migration for women. Like African-American women in the United States, many Moroccan female migrants complain that they lack access to resources that would provide them with support during periods of unemployment, emotional crisis, or health problems. There are many unhelpful stereotypes about Muslim women as oppressed and passive human beings with no power whatsoever to make any changes in their lives.65 Although a few of the participants attended associations, activities, and group meetings, they often felt out of place or did not think European people could understand their migration situations. The lack of suitable resources to deal with their socioeconomic and cultural challenges served to further marginalize these women and may have contributed to job loss, low income, or identity crises. The overwhelming majority of these women are largely assigned the least prestigious jobs, such as services, domestic work, and clothing industries. Because their skills arc not always acknowledged,
they are compelled to work in areas that have little to do with the training they have received. Given the increasing rate of racial and gender-based discrimination, a significant number of women have resorted to self-employment in pursuit of economic and social welfare.
The descriptive findings within the research demonstrate that even though Moroccan women migrants live on the edge of the margins, they are overcoming through submission of remittances back to Morocco and taking on unprecedented leadership roles in their host countries. These three themes raise multiple implications for future research as a result which include a community-based research project to unravel the economic, social and psychological effects of discrimination, establishing culturally sensitive research tools that quantify marginalization, and implementing interdisciplinary methods that study gender, ethnic discrimination and social disparities.66
This chapter corroborates recent research that Moroccan women regard migration as an opportunity to build new lives.67 Women’s emancipation through migration undermines the patriarchal authority that traditionally subjugates women and confines them to the home and the rearing of children. This is one of the main reasons why the clear majority of women believe that migration is irreversible and is a survival strategy that helps them focus on building a better future in their new country. Thus, they represent a new type of feminism, which contributes to the subversion of old gender roles, gender equity, the culture of sharing and dialogue, and social development.
Across Europe, female Moroccan immigrants have contributed and partaken in various fields, which, by and large, have helped advance their host countries and their own society. At home and in Europe, they have developed strategies for resisting social injustice, discrimination, and other forms of oppression. Through their hard work, they have created a broad, North African identity, providing their communities with a sense of participation in European public life. They have learned skills and adapted their customs and beliefs to European lifestyles. They have equally established positive attitudes and practices to affect their own communities, even though hegemonic European powers could interfere at will. These kinds of sociocultural and political contributions by Moroccan Muslim immigrants have evolved in unique ways. The participation of Moroccan women migrants in economic development is often significant and affects their environment as well as their gender roles. It fosters empowerment and contributes to the transgression of patriarchal gender relations.
Their contributions have affected the transformations taking place in twenty-first century Europe, which, according to many researchers, could foster migrants’ integration and the strengthening of Europe’s relations with North African States. This encounter could equally contribute to consolidating the dialogue between Muslims and Westerners and to developing economic, social, and cultural exchanges between Europe and North Africa. Similarly, intersectionalityhelps us better understand social disparities among migrant women and is manifested in the consciousness of the participants as discrimination, marginalization, existential invisibility, and resistance.
see also Alexis Palmer, “Fatal Stampede for Food Aid Follows Drought in Rural Morocco,” Northeastern University Global Institute, December 4, 2017, accessed on January 26, 2018, https://globalresilience.northeastern.edu/2017/12/fatal-stampede-for-food-aid-follows-drought-in-rural-morocco/.
Ennaji and Sadiqi, Migration and Gender in Morocco; Touria Khannous, “Moroccan Women Contrabandists: Interferences in Public Space,” in Women in the Middle East, Agents of Change, edited by Fatima Sadiqi and Moha Ennaji (London: Routledge, 2010), 324-338.
See Mohamed Khachani, L’Emigration au Féminin: Tendances Récentes au Maroc, Budapest: Robert Schuman Institute, 2009, http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/ handle/1814/11613/CARIM_AS&N_2009_26.pdf?sequence=l.
Mohamed Khachani, La Femme Maghrébine Immigrée dans L’Espace Economique des Pays d’Accueil, Quelques Repères, 2001, accessed on February 21, 2017, www. archive-iussp.org/Brazil2001/s20/S27_P08_Kachani.pdf; Zineb Daoud, ed., “Basic Skills for the Vocational Integration of Moroccan Women and Girls,” in Immigrant Women and Migration (Strasbourg: Council of Europe Press, 1995), 71-78.
Sadiqi and Ennaji, Migration and Gender in Morocco, 82-84.
Moroccan Association for Studies and Research on Migration (AMERM), ed., La Migration Clandestine Enjeux et Perspectives [Rabat: Publication of L’Association Marocaine d’Etudes et de Recherches sur les Migrations (AMERM); Faculté des Droit, 2000].
Sadiqi and Ennaji, Migration and Gender in Morocco, 82-84.
Ibid., see chap. 3.
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Killian, North African Women in France, 36.
The names present in the study are fictional in order to respect the privacy of the individuals. Ennaji, Muslim Moroccan Migrants in Europe.
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