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Fatema Mernissi

Najia Elboudali - A Medina Digital Feminist

Professor Najia Elboudali is the coordinator of the Synergie Civique project for 2003 and the acting president of the "Writing Techniques Association" which manages the "Writing Workshop" and edits the group's publications. Najia Elboudali was born in Casablanca in 1959 in the heart of the Medina (old city center) to a father who was a craftsman and a mother who embroidered delicate flowers on her clients' silk before joining the ranks of a textile factory in 1962.

Najia Elboudali's mother's involvement in the trade union movement and her participation in the dangerous street-demonstrations between 1962 to 1973 was the most life-shaping event of her childhood. Since she finished her studies in Rabat, Najia Elboudali has been teaching geology at the Faculty of Sciences of Casablanca's Hassan II University and contributing her time as a feminist activist to one of the city's new women's centers (Fama Center) and to many human rights associations, including Amnesty International.

To give a more precise idea of what I mean by "Medina Digital Feminists", I will give two examples:

Najia as Time-Navigator: To give an idea of how she uses time to shatter our stereotyped ideas of how the modern history of the city of Casablanca was fabricated by the political actors, she writes that "everyone repeats that Casablanca is a newly created city." In fact, she explains, this was an invention of the French who started building a harbor there as soon as they colonized the country in 1912. According to her, the city existed thousands of years before the French. "The skull of a man dating back 500.000 years lies in the ocean, just 5 kilometers away from Casablanca's center, near the sanctuary of Sidi Abderahman. Better still, travel 150 meters as the crow flies away from the sanctuary, you stumble on 'The Thomas Excavation Site' which lies now open under our eyes one of the oldest spot of human civilization. Prehistoric hunters tools dated 700.000 years were discovered there." (from her contribution to the forthcoming book about hidden treasures of Morocco)

Najia as Space Navigator: If you ask her why she is both a geologist and a feminist, her answer is simple: "By definition, a geologist is a person who needs to move freely, climb up mountains and run through the deserts looking up for history-charged stones. Therefore, unless I have equal rights as a woman, to fill up space without any one asking me where I am going, I can not do my work as a professional. In other words, for an Arab woman, to fight for one's rights as a feminist is a necessary condition in order to perform as a professional."

As a feminist, she has published dozens of articles and recently a book on her experience as an counselor for battered women and rape victims at the Fama Center. Two other books on the topic of women and law, she published as the editor of conference series she coordinated. As a professor of geology, she coordinated the "Synergie Civique" workshop on "Pre-Historic Sites" which is resulting in the publication of a forthcoming book about hidden treasures of Morocco.

Fatema Mernissi, May 2003

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Najia Elboudali

Related Links:

Femmes et Patriarchat
(Article, 2002)

Synergie civique writing workshop
Saving Local Heritage


Women's Testimonies:
Témoignages de Femmes
Editions Le Fennec
Casa, 2002

Violence Against Women in the Legal Texts:
'Al 'Unf didda al-Maraa Min Khilal Al Qanoun'
Editions Le Fennec
Casa, 2003

The Moroccan Woman's Problem with the Law:
'Machakil al Mar'a al Maghribiya ma'a al-Qanoun'