Who is seeking help?
There is a tragic story behind every case in Oum El Banine. The women coming to the association seeking help are often all alone and they have nowhere else to go. Some of the women have been married before but are now divorced. But most of them are unmarried – many have had a relationship with a man who has promised them marriage, but left them after they have become pregnant. Some of the women have been raped, abused or in some other way have felt forced to have a sexual relationship with a man. The pregnancy always becomes the responsibility of the woman – it is her fault and her problem – even if it is not voluntarily. Since only the name of the mother will be registered at birth it is difficult to claim responsibility from the man. Bringing the case to court is not an option since it will probably result in some months in prison for the both of them since they have had sex without being married.
Many of the women in Oum El Banine are very young. They come from poor families in small villages in the countryside or in the Atlas Mountains. Most of these women have no education at all – if a family does not have enough money to send all children to school – the sons are prioritised. Illiteracy is therefore widespread and, instead, many of these women have been working since they were very young, some of them since they were only a few years old. The poor women from the mountains are in a majority but there are women from all social classes in Oum El Banine. This treatment of women has support in all layers of society. Some of the women have a good education and speak French (which is the second language in Morocco and the language used in higher education). Some of them are from rather rich families and have revolted against their fathers and left the home or they have been thrown out. Nonetheless, all women in Oum El Banine have something in common. They have all become pregnant without being married and they are therefore marginalized and excluded from their families and society.