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Studying for a Master´s degree in Gender Studies

Majdouline. Phoot: Kristian SahlbergThe academic activist

– When I was about 10 years old there was a big scandal in Morocco, my home country. A girl, about my age, went to the grocery store to get olives for her mother. But she never came back. Days went by and everybody wondered what had happened to her. Later she was found in a hotel room, badly beaten and with cigarette burns all over her body. The autopsy showed that she had been raped before she was killed.

That really made a huge impression on me. I was her age. It could have happened to me. I decided that if I could find a way to prevent stories like this from happening again, I would do so.

And now you’re working on a Master's degree in gender studies here in Sweden.

– Yes. During 2011 and the Arab uprising, there was another kind of feminist uprising going on in the world. It was called Slutwalk and started in Toronto. The point of it was for women to reclaim the streets from harassing men. I understand this is almost non-existent here in Sweden – men don't stand around and say stuff to women walking by. But back in Morocco, it's very common.

Anyway, Slutwalk started spreading around the world, to India, Australia, some cities in Europe, and other places. I really liked the concept of taking the streets back. I kept following the movement online and eventually decided to launch a similar campaign adapted to the Moroccan context. I created Facebook pages, talked about my idea with some friends and started a campaign. It that was meant to be short but that ended up being two years long. And we are still active on Facebook.

There are some grey areas, though. For example, when should this behaviour be accepted as innocent flirting? When does it turn into street harassment? Walking up to a stranger to flirt and chat remains a very common way for people to meet and start a relationship in Morocco. 

In a world where nothing is black and white, it is very complex to deconstruct how a means of social interaction can become an invasion of intimacy and policing of women´s bodies in the public space. Let alone simplifying the matter in order to explain it widely. This constant questioning how to address that gender based violence may sometimes be supported by social norms really caught my attention, I realized that I needed to learn to more about gender to fully understand it. I realized I have to take these courses.

So how do you like it here?

– It was hard to get used to the Swedish university system. We don’t have as much literature to read per week back in Morocco, where I completed my first five years at the Mohammed V University in Rabat. If I get the chance to stay in Sweden after my graduation, I will. Two years is not enough to explore Sweden. It’s a big country and you cannot grasp the culture by only hanging out with international students. But Swedish students can be hard to reach somehow. To be honest, sometimes it gets very lonely but I still have a lot to learn about this country.

Eventually, I want to return to Morocco and get involved with institutions dealing with women's and/or gender issues. Where the power is. Gender is treated very differently in Sweden and Morocco. By gaining experience here in Sweden, I'll be able to implement certain practices I have seen succeed in Sweden back in Morocco. I started as an activist and I don’t want to lose the power to make a difference but now that I am considering more of an academic role. Maybe I can be some sort of academic activist. That would be great.

Study Gender Studies

Page Manager: Eva Englund|Last update: 1/30/2018

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