Aicha, the Women Who has Spent 17 Years at the “Moukef”
“Everybody knows me here. People know me for working hard to raise my children. Actually, I do not care about what they say about me as long as I know exactly what I do” These were Aicha’s words when I asked her about the negative look Moroccans have about women who are waiting to be picked up at “Moukef”, an unofficial place near the road where jobless people are picked up to work ,to get a temporary job.
Aicha stands at the sidewalk for 14 years. She arrives here before sunrise. She has been used to this situation since 1999, when her husband fishing boat sank. His death radically changed her life. She is in her thirties. She wears an “ adjlaba” dress that lost its color because of it is exposed to the sun almost everyday while waiting for employees to pick her up at the sidewalk.
If it happened you talk to her, you will hear stories that exceed “Thousand nights and a night. There in Charaf neighborhood, she keeps waiting everyday in the street asking people if they need a maid or just to clean their houses or cook for them. She is good at many jobs from cooking, babysitting, and cleaning bathrooms, but as usual the money she makes working is always less than nothing compared to the work she performs. She times she keeps working till she faints.
In the absence of laws that would guarantee the rights of employees in the “moukef”, women really face difficult everyday, in addition to the fact that the government does nothing to put an end to the suffering of these women. When these women are hired to work, they don’t sign any contract with the company or the person who hires them. Many women who are hired by big companies are fired when they are not needed anymore. The worst thing is that when they are fired, they have no rights to sue the companies. They simply go back to the “moukef” and wait again for anybody to fire them for any job.
With eyes crying and sad voice, Aicha said: “ May God look at us and do what is good for us for we don’t know what is the future holds for us”. She does not talk about her rights as an employee, she only complains when nobody hires her as she is older now. The standards of choosing a worker have been changed. Now, people prefer a young, healthy and strong woman who can endure the difficulty of the jobs hired for. People, when they hire you, they expect you to work like a horse. Old women like me find it very difficult to be hired.
Because prostitutes have joined the kind of job, everything is mixed now. We all look alike. Some women take the opportunity and perform both jobs as prostitutes and worker. Sometimes, I am chase by the police as if I am a prostitute. We are not safe anymore. A lot of men come to me and ask me for sex which makes me very sad to the deep of my heart.
Aicha tells me about some stories that tore my heart apart. The many she is paid compared to the kinds of work she performs makes one wonder if the people who hired her are humans or other creatures. One a woman with a very expensive car came and hired me to clean her house. When I arrived, I found a very big villa. I was very happy to work for her. I worked cleaning for about 5 hours. When I finished I asked her to pay me 150 DH, she creamed in my face and threw 40 DH at me. 40 Dhs is about 4 Euros. She asked me to leave her house; otherwise she would call the police and accuse me of stealing. Because I did not want to fall into any trouble, I left her house immediately and came home to my kids as I am the only one who looks after them. One, I was almost raped by my employer. He said “You are all alike, don’t act” He thinks that all those women who wait at the sidewalk are prostitutes. “ He told me that he has brought prostitutes form the same place. I tried to explain to him that I have children and That I do not sell sex, but he was too stubborn and did not care about what I was saying. When I did not want to have sex with him he took the cleaning materials from my hands and threw them outside asking me to “ take your shit away”. I came to the same place, without giving up, trying to get somebody to hire me again.
It is not only Aicha who suffers from this problem, but she is one among many who suffers for sexual harassment and unbearable life situations everyday. Because of the circumstances, Aicha and others are forced to work to be able to take care of their children and pay life expenses.
This is the sad story of Aicha. The “Moukef”, is the place where very sad stories are shared every morning before the ladies are hired for unbearable temporary jobs with very low income. Even though the payment is very low, the competition is very high as there are very few jobs available. Among moukef’s women are those who look after their children, when their husbands die. These women work hard and do everything they can to raise their children with “Halal” money gained from hard work. They wait for their kids to grow up and look back at the past with wide eyes thanking God for everything. They taste all colours of pain from different employers who lack human feeling.