Being young never stopped Rania Harrara from wanting to change her reality. Rania is an 18-year-old girl from Morocco who developed a passion for football but was disappointed in its situation in Morocco. Facing many challenges herself, she saw that Moroccan girls, including her peers, do not have the same opportunities as boys. Throughout the years, Rania participated in many initiatives and founded a couple of them to prove that there is a place for girls in youth politics and in sports, fields that are dominated by boys in Morocco.
Growing up, Rania always wanted to play football. She practiced and played with her cousins and never felt inferior to them. At school, Rania did not find a girls’ varsity team to play with. The only varsity team available was the boys’ football team. After giving it much thought, Rania decided she wanted to try out for the boys’ varsity team. Her brother supported her decision and told her to do what felt right for her but warned her that it will not be easy. Being protective of his younger sister, Rania’s brother informed her that the players on the boys’ team will not easily accept having a girl on their team. Before tryouts, the coach was also against having Rania on the team for the fact that she might not be as good as the boys, however, she insisted on proving her point and showing that her playing was worth being seen.
Since girls are marginalized from sports in Morocco, Rania felt that she should come up with an initiative that would better support them in their endeavors. At the age of 14, Rania decided to establish Association de Football Feminin Casablancais (AFFC) with external help. The association aims at empowering girls in participating in male-dominating sports such as football. With the help of donors, Rania was able to find a space for girls to train and engage with one another. She coached over 50 girls per week and was able to recruit 10 more volunteers to train girls. Since the girls lacked access to proper material and equipment, Rania organized fundraising events to raise money to buy the needed equipment to ensure safe and effective training. In 2021, Rania teamed up with Girl Up Morocco and organized the largest sports camp for girls that was ever done in Morocco.
In 2020, Rania was chosen to be a leader at Girl Up Morocco. At the debut of her experience with the initiative, Rania presented at the Girl Up Leadership Summit about gender equality in sports. She took part in the organization’s different initiatives such as the Bootcamp and its data collection processes. In 2021, Rania became a board member at Girl Up where she worked with the team on empowering girls by providing them with their necessities. During this year, Rania collaborated with Global Family to gather clothes and school supplies for girls. She also made sure to work on collecting hygienic supplies for girls, necessities that seem a luxury in Morocco.
Rania had faced several challenges that shaped the way she thinks and acts. She was told that she was not fit to be an athlete because she was a girl. This made her realize how difficult it is to be a woman in Morocco and how challenging the fight will be to prove that she belongs to the society that which she takes part. Out of wanting to achieve equal rights in Morocco, Rania believes that policy reform should occur on the higher levels so that it affects individual mindsets and ideologies.
When she turned 18, Rania started thinking about the major that she wants to pursue at university. Being the person who wants to lead change, Rania decided to major in political sciences. She was highly opposed by her surrounding for wanting to pursue this field. They told her that there is no place for women in politics and that men will eat her alive. To those people, Rania should have gone for medicine since it is more of a ‘feminine job.’ Being a difficult reality in Morocco, they told her that going into politics will make her do things beyond her morals to get what she wants.
As a student who wants to change the implementation of certain laws regarding women, Rania advises the Moroccan government to invest in motherhood. She believes that women should be supported when having a child and the baby should be provided with financial support and a healthy upbringing. Since the number of employed or financially independent women remains low, Rania suggests that the government should also create a plan for widowed and divorced women who were financially dependent on their husbands. Having plans that provide women with some work opportunities would be the first step toward introducing women as strong and equal counterparts to men.
Rania advises girls to speak up. She is a strong believer in standing up and fighting for one’s rights. When a girl is passionate about her ideas, she should be able to speak up until she makes them happen. Rania believes that girls do not owe anyone anything and they should not always conform to societal expectations just because they should. Rania advises girls to live their lives to the fullest because life is temporary and it should not be lived in regret, even if something does not happen the way they want them to happen.
Being a recent school graduate made Rania reflect on the school practices that influenced her. To avoid a negative impact on girls, Rania reinforces the notion of training for school teachers. She says that when a teacher educates a class with a specific mindset toward girls, conforming to societal norms, this would negatively affect the girl. With positive training, Rania says, teachers should be able to distance their pre-existing ideologies from what they say in class and how they treat their students. They should be able to promote the idea of equality since students are malleable at that age and can change their mindsets very easily.
This story was written by Tamara Sleiman