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Women of Ait Bouguemez: How Tourism Affects Identities

Wafaa Tizza
Traduction de Université Bretagne Occidentale
Cet article est une traduction de :
Femmes des Aït Bouguemez : des identités à l’épreuve du tourisme [fr]
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Mujeres de los Aït Bouguemez: identidades desafiando al turismo [es]


Since the recent changes in the status of women in Morroco, gender has become a widely debated issue, both on the national and on the local level. In the case of fringe areas such as the valley of Ait Bouguemez, the involvement of women in local development projects initiated by the state or by NGOs through ACF (Women’s Associations and Cooperatives) has demonstrated great capacities for their empowerment. Through this fact, new women’s groups have emerged with a forward-looking vision and a new view of their local heritage which reinforces identity representations. Despite women’s low income, social-cultural constraints and the alignement of ACF on institutions, it appears that these ACF have nevertheless strongly contributed to the reformulation of new female identities in rural settings.

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The author warmly thanks the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research for having funded the research project (IZ70Z0_123903) within which her research and her PhD have been undertaken.

1In the last decade, the question of women’s status in Morrocan society has become a major issue of debate. Royal and state initiatives and a genuine rallying of associations have contributed to weakening the dominant vision in this matter. This vision was and still remains largely influenced by a traditionalist conception which takes it for granted that women should be confined to their domestic environment, and are widely absent from political life and marginal in the economic and political fields of activity (Naciri, 2002). However, these initiatives and this mobilization have helped to advance the idea that women could play an increasingly important role in the public sphere, benefit from an increased equity and contribute more to the economic development of the country (Ennaji, 2004). In particular, they have taken the form of the promotion and the development of women’s associations and cooperatives (ACF – associations et coopératives féminines) which have become important players in the production of goods and services for tourists. These ACF have possibly been generated by a combination of endogenous and exogenous initiatives, and may also often lead “to modifications in the transmission of knowledge while promoting the economic, human and social capital of women” (Louargant, 2005, p. 2). The aim of this article is to show what changes in particular have been introduced by these ACF in the relations between men and women in an area of the central High Atlas, the valley of the Ait Bouguemez.

2Academic literature has shown, for the past few decades already, that international tourism in countries of the South plays a major role in identity construction. The research conducted by Michel Picard in Bali as well as a few other publications from the 1980s on have suggested that tourism studies could gain from investigating this activity, no longer mainly from the point of view of the cultural destabilization of the host societies, but rather of its capacity to instigate a transformation and renewal of collective identities. Even recently, Picard wrote that “the analysis of cultural tourism in Bali has made it clear that, far from intervening from the outside, the touristification of a society transforms it from the inside, by affecting the idea it has of itself. Indeed, as soon as a society offers itself for consumption on the market, and as soon as it seeks to make itself desirable in the eyes of its visitors, this will change the perception this society has of itself, as the touristic exchange provokes a shift in the point of view from which its members come to consider their identity, when confronted with the otherness represented by the tourists’ presence.” He then underlines that local populations are not the passive objects of “tourists’ vision” (Urry, 1990), but “active subjects who construct representations of their culture for tourists—representations founded both on their own reference systems and on their interpretation of the tourists’ desire” (Picard, 2010). This reflexivity, which is made possible or amplified by the contact and exchange with tourists, can thus lead to reformulating the terms of collective self-definition.

3This tourist-induced transformation can affect local societies as a whole, and lead to new representations of cultural practices and to the emergence of a new conception of local heritage. This has already been pointed out by Moroccan researchers: “This connection to the world-system of social-economic and local cultural systems also leads to heritage processing strongly marked by this globalization in which the ‘local’ is rediscovered or reconstructed in answer to a foreign demand” (Nakhli and Berriane, 2011, p. 120). This reshaping can also lead to the repositioning of specific groups within these local societies. It can then draw marginalised groups to want to acquire increased recognition, as understood by Charles Taylor (1998) and Paul Ricoeur (2004), to resist this marginalization, and even to promote identities of projects which offer alternative conceptions of society (Castells, 1999).

4In these conditions, certain tourist initiatives may constitute a potential “capital” (Picard, 2010) which can be exploited by corresponding individuals or groups in order to define themselves and to reposition themselves in their social context.

5In this perspective, research has analyzed social and identity reshaping induced by tourist development in the specific field of gender relations (for example Masson et al, 1989). As indicated by Sophie Louargant and Liliane Bensahel, who have worked on experiences conducted in the Middle Atlas, tourist initiatives have “allowed for the developing both of human capital (women’s know-how) (and) of social capital (the creation of associations and cooperatives and of (financial, social and cultural) resources by the increased recognition of the social status of women)” (Louargant et Bensahel, 2007, p. 22). More generally, these two authors consider that the human capital and the social capital are the pillars of sustainable development, “decisive factors in innovative productions and services” (idem, p. 13). For Perret (2002), these are even indicators of social-economic development.

6The subjective and identity-focused dimension of the terms and of the effects of development on women has been particularly underlined by some authors (Granié and Guétat-Bernard, 2006 ; Verschuur, 2001). In his work on the Middle Atlas, Louargant has observed that the women involved in tourist projects “seize opportunities to invent, act and occupy a place as subject” (Louargant, 2007, p. 9).

7This article is in keeping with this line of work. It proceeds from an analysis of the identity repositioning of women involved in the ACF of the Ait Bouguemez valley. The analysis is guided by the wish to measure the terms, the gains but also the limits of these transformations and their consequences on the status of women in this valley. It is based on the confrontation of several types of identities: the traditional social identities governed by the dominant vision, traditions and customs, the identities promoted over the past decade in the national context under the influence of the Western world and through the actions of international organizations, and the asserted collective identities which are shaped by women involved in these ACF when they use this involvement to evolve in their social status.

8In carrying out our research, we first relied on an analysis of the policies and strategies adopted by the Moroccan state to encourage the participation of women in local development, particularly through the expected benfits of the ACF, then on the conducting and analysis of interviews carried out within ten ACF of the valley of the Ait Bouguemez, mainly of people in charge, and on observations made in situ. This case study aims at measuring the local adoption of this organisational model, its effects on the structuring of the local society and the identities which are asserted. The outline of this article follows and develops the sequence of these methods while focusing on several particular aspects of the identities at stake. First, we will briefly approach the Moroccan state policies in favour of women and of ACF. Then we will present the question of the development of ACF in the valley of the Ait Bouguemez with the emergence of a new group of women. In the third part of this text, we will focus on the issue of heritage in its relation to the idea of modernization. To finish, we will discuss the contribution of ACF to reformulating local female identities.

State policies in favour of women and of the ACF

9Rural societies in Morocco are characterized by a clear differentiation between the roles attributed to women and to men (Laklalesh, 2006). Men usually see themselves associated with productive activities which generate income. Women are more especially in charge of domestic and social reproductive activities, as well as productive activities which do not generate income. They thus represent decisive actors of societies and of rural development, but marginal economic actors, excluded from the production of marketable wealth (Laklalesh, 2006).

10Since the end of the 1990s, the Moroccan state has taken up the task of promoting the status and role of women through a process of integration in development. This recent interest has been widely encouraged by international, intergovernment or non-government organisations. It has also been motivated by the Moroccan government’s wish to improve its international image, for example by contributing to the Millennium Objectives for Development—the third of these objectives being aimed at ‘promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment’—or by working towards improving its Human Development Index which takes into account indicators related to gender issues.

  • 1 The Royal speech of 20th August 1999 and the Royal letter of 18th January 2000 strongly express the (...)

11This intention was first expressed in royal decisions1. It opened the way to a series of reforms, which were particularly numerous from 2002 on—the Code of Criminal Procedures (2002), the Work Code (2003), the Criminal Code (2003), and the Family Code (2004)—and of social transformations sometimes qualified as outstanding if one compares the Moroccan situation to that of other Arab-Muslim countries: “The progress accomplished since 2002 in the legislative field places Morocco, indisputably, among the Arab countries which have progressed the most in fighting against discrimination towards women. The political will—at the highest level—to put an end to the most glaring inequalities and the humiliations which victimize women open important perspectives to ongoing mobilization on the path to equality between men and women” (ADFM, 2009).

12Some of these reforms have been carried out with the intention of encouraging and promoting structures for specifically income-generating female activities. The Moroccan state also wished to facilitate the taking into account of female activities in calculating the GDP. One of the tools promoted in this context was that of the Women’s Associations and Cooperatives (ACF or Associations et Coopératives Féminines). These are structures created in agreement with the administration which also serves as an intermediary with donors. These ACF thus have a legal status, which is identical over the whole territory of Morocco, even if they have been particularly encouraged in fringe areas of the country. They emphasize similar priorities: the increase in family income, the improvement of the level of education, the advancement of health and environmental conditions in the concerned towns, the preschooling of children (in order) to allow women to devote themselves to productive activities.

13This policy has encountered a genuine success: numerous ACF have been created in this context and many have reached several of the objectives they had set for themselves according to a recent assessment established by different reports and analyses (Toumi, 2010). The political and administrative context in which they have emerged has led many of these ACF however to rely heavily on public authorities. Consequently, they have often suffered from recurring difficulties in matters of self-management and of the independent realization of projects (El Mostafa Chadli, 2001). In many cases, their management today appears to depend very strongly on the current economic environment, State commitments and international partners.

The development of the ACF in the Ait Bouguemez area and the emergence of a new group of women

  • 2 High Commissioner to the Plan, 2004 Statistics.
  • 3 Division for Social Affairs of the Azilal Province.

14The valley of Ait Bouguemez has seen many initiatives arise in the context of of this policy. This valley, which is 35 km wide and is situated in the center of the High Atlas mountains, includes a little over 15,000 inhabitants2 distributed among 25 villages or hamlets (douars). It corresponds to the territory of a single administrative structure, the rural commune of Tabant. The development of infrastructures from the 1970s on opened up the area and brought electricity, drinking water and phone lines to a number of douars. Several public, associative and international cooperative initiatives also helped in the development of tourism thanks to hiking trails promoting the numerous resources of the valley such as dinosaur traces, natural landscapes, adobe architecture, cultural traditions, and historical sites such as collective granaries (ighrems), especially that of Ait Moussa which has received the world heritage label from the UNESCO. Tourist attendance in the valley increased from 3,000 visitors in 1987 to 19,000 in 20023, thanks in particular to the proximity with the city of Marrakech. A network of rural holiday accommodation and a mountain-guide training center were created as part of the “Mountain Tourism Development Project” within the framework of a regional development operation, the Central High Atlas Project, launched in 1983 (Pezelet, 1996).

15Most of the ACF created in the valley have sought to integrate this process of tourist development. The valley includes 47 associations and cooperatives among which 10 are female (1 cooperative and 9 associations). Only one association is mixed. All the ACF were created between 2002 and 2011. They are structured on a single model: they include a small number of members (between 12 and 52) and their activity is coordinated by a board composed of 5 to 7 members. These ACF have specialized in crafts production (weaving of wool rugs, knitting, sewing, beading), agricultural production (beekeeping, irrigation, goat breeding, orchard planting) and in the transformation of products (applesauce, apple and tomato jam, walnut and honey marmelade, flavoured couscous, milk and by-products – cottage cheese, raclette cheese, yoghourt). In addition to these activities, they have often developed service and training activities (literacy classes, education and girls schooling).

  • 4 A state program, baptised National Initiative for Human Development, offers the possibility to acce (...)

16These structures do not receive public funding, since the valley is not considered as a priority due to the average income of its inhabitants4. The help granted to its female structures proceeds mainly from foreign NGOs and temporary visitors, mostly tourists. In only one case, that of the Imelghass Association, financial help, in the form of technical and material help (purchase of equipement) originated from foreigners established in the valley.

  • 5 All of the interviews were conducted by the author in dialectal Arabic and translated by her for th (...)

17The development of ACF took place in a local context in which women had remained largely excluded from direct tourist activities and income. Most of these activities were in the hands of a male elite, mainly composed of guides. Female involvement was often limited to back office tasks. As one young inn-keeper told us: “women do everything except serve the tourists…Its our tradition. They do not speak their language…they don’t need the salary. They are part of our family5.” When women practice a paid activity within this context, mainly in housework or cooking, they receive a very low salary for long hard working-days. In these conditions, the involvement in an ACF has appeared to many as a way to become more directly involved in the tourist economy and to gain a certain level of independence.

18Indeed, if the activities realized in this context are not directly related to the production of tourist services, the members are well aware that tourists constitute the clientele for their productions: “without tourism, our activity would be dead, it’s the tourists who buy” as one member declares. Another asserts: “It’s the foreign tourists who buy our products and who find them very good or very pretty.” The commercializaton of production to tourists allows members to acquire a certain financial independence: “… it’s thanks to tourism that we earn a little money, it’s important to have one’s own money.” The income drawn from this activity is often used to improve the women’s daily life: “With the money earned, I bought a washing-machine to relieve myself from washing by hand which gave me a back-ache.” However, this financial autonomy is very limited, as the time devoted to working in the ACF is modest in view of the weight of traditional domestic and family tasks. In fact, our survey showed that mothers are little involved in these associations and cooperatives. According to our estimations, 80 % of the members are single women of all ages, widows, divorcees and elderly women. Married women and mothers who participate in the ACF are often very poor women whose husbands tolerate their involvement for financial reasons: “My husband accepts my being a member because my money helps our children.” In addition, 60 % of the young women members abandon the ACF when they marry. As the president of the Imelghas association declares: “Each year, the number of members decreases because the great majority of the young women who marry leave the association.

19Consequently, at first analysis, the ACF seem more to have temporary economic effects rather than a strong capacity to influence the social status of most of the women in these rural communities. They do of course confer a new status on their members since the latter publicly assert their involvement in these institutions and recognise their benefits in their concern for empowerment. Of course they contribute to reshaping social relations within these communities even just by participating in repositioning a group of women living outside of a couple relationship, and who used to be isolated. All together, these members have thus created a new local social group which now plays an economic-social role in the valley unknown up until now: they earn money, help their relatives and contribute to the tourist development of the valley. However, although these ACF have allowed women who are more independent than in the past to constitute a visible group, their members retain a marginal position in local societies still marked by a strong differentiation of social roles between men and women, and by a mainly hostile attitude of men who resist all forms of “female modernization”. Women constitue a small minority within the communal council of the rural commune of Tabant: 3 elected councilors out of 17 are female.

20To this first analysis, which concludes with a limited evolution of social gender relations, one should add a second one, which is even more qualified, in terms of identity reshaping. We observe that the emergence of ACF has played an ambivalent role in the reinforcing and the transformation of collective identities and in particular of female identities in the valley.

Heritage, modernization and reinforcement of identity representations

21The ACF have contributed to reinforcing established representations of Berber women by highlighting know-how usually associated with women in these traditional societies.

22The agricultural tasks (for example the tending of orchards) and the manufacturing of by-products (sauces and jams in particular) which are promoted by certain ACF correspond to tasks traditionally carried out by women. Weaving, which is the most commonly retained craft in these organisations, is also an activity traditionally associated with women in this valley. In addition, the ACF’s wish to combine these production activities with the collective organisation of childcare, and even of preschooling, also corresponds to a need usually fulfilled by women individually.

23The specialization of ACF in the organisation and the promoting of traditional activities thus corresponds to a desire to capitalize on existing female know-how But it also corresponds to a specific demand of numerous tourists, who are as interested in the products of this work as in the fact that they are, in their eyes, typically female productions. The members, like the female manager of the Tikniwine cooperative, are perfectly aware of this fact: “We produce new products with apples, like jam, sauces, marmelade with walnuts and honey. They are in great demand with the tourists.” As she adds: “we manage to make fresh cheese, yoghourt and even raclette cheese. They are sold in a French cheese shop in Marrakech. They are greatly appreciated by foreigners.” The female president of the association of the friends of Ait Bouguemez confirms this point of view: “We produce a variety of couscous based on barley, wheat, and corn, flavoured with herbs such as thym and rosemary. These products are much in demand with foreign tourists.”

  • 6 Berber alphabet, in the past an abjad, a consonantic alphabet which has undergone modifications and (...)

24The knowledge acquired of tourists’ expectations has also taught them to showcase the most traditional techniques and to adopt a circumstancial identity discourse. These women say they are revitalizing a forgotten or marginalized ancestral heritage. They readily assert that they are perpetuating very ancient weaving or food preparation techniques. Some say that they undertake actual research to identify the most unique characteristics of the Berber or mountain culture: thus the pattern of the fibula, emblem of the Berber identity and the tifinaghe6 alphabet are now reproduced in rugs, packaging, posters, signs, etc. As one member says: “We look for old Berber designs to weave them, they are greatly appreciated by tourists.” Another confirms that: “We do indeed present the Berber and mountain character in our purely local productions, through the names of associations or posters, and on the packaging of our products.” This wish to satisfy tourists sometimes goes hand in hand with the desire to promote the local cultural heritage: “we know we must not lose our rural and Berber culture. We are proud of it. It’s the legacy left by our parents.”

25This wish to satisfy tourists’ expectations has however led to several adaptations. The rugs made in the workshops are now more varied in terms of shapes, colors, sizes and patterns: “We now weave small rugs, hangings and decorative rugs… it’s because of the weight allowance in planes—the tourists can’t buy big rugs like the ones we make.” Another member sums it up thus: “More varieties in the colours and shape mean more profits.” It is the same in the case of the production of jewelry, according to the president of the Ighrem association: “We adapt the production of our items to the tourists’ requests. We make matching necklaces and bracelets of different colours and shapes. They are very successful and only bought by people from outside the valley.”

26The production techniques adopted in the workshops are often also more modern and more mechanized than at home. The ACF workshops have introduced tools and mechanized techniques, for operations as diverse as the extraction of juice, the packing and preservation of products, the bottling of syrups or the weaving of rugs. These innovations are due to a wish for efficiency, but also to the desire to meet the standards of hygiene and presentation adapted to the target clientele: “We have to integrate hygiene standards and new methods of preservation in our production practices. Otherwise, our products will not be bought by tourists,” the president of the Tikniouine cooperative declared. Some ACF have even involved themselves in acquiring certification or labels in order to ensure that their products meet international standards and can be exported. These adaptations lead to charging prices considered as unaffordable by the local population. In addition, the commercialization of these productions has required the mastery of accounting techniques unknown up until now.

27These associative and cooperative structures now represent the “brand image” of agricultural production and of local craftsmanship because they have been able to adapt to tourist expectations, imaginaries and practices. Due to the tourists’ appreciation, the ACF as such have become a “capital” (Picard, 1990) exploited and built on by women.

28Consequently, the tourist market aimed at by these ACF has encouraged the rediscovery of a local heritage and, in the same spirit, reinforced certain social representations related to women, among tourists themselves, but also among the majority of the inhabitants of the valley. The ACF women mainly promote know-how which is usually associated with them. However, the context of production and of commercialization has induced an evolution of know-how by developing a greater technical sophistication. If tourists are not aware of this, these transformations, and their effect on the image of women, are clearly perceived within these traditional societies. Consequently, tourism, while reinforcing certain traditional identities is now seen by members as a factor of “cultural renaissance” (Picard, 1990).

How ACF contribute to reformulating female identities

29The adaptation of the ACF to the touristic demand of the valley has thus played an ambiguous role in the relationship of its members to the past and to their heritage on the one hand, and on the other hand to modernisation, as well as in the effects of these relations to the terms of their individual and collective self-definition. But the identity implications of this new state of affairs also expresses itself on another level: that of the social recognition that the members of these ACF seek and sometimes manage to gain through their activities. This time it is their collective identity gained thanks to their repositioning in the face of outside consideration and of other local groups which is at stake.

30One of the first consequences of the development of ACF has been the recognition acquired in the eyes of tourists. Members often say that the interest that the tourists show in their work has heightened their “pride”: “We feel prouder, more self-confident since we’ve been working in the association. We know how to read and count and we manage the sale of our products well. We innovate as well. And the tourists appreciate it a lot and encourage us.” This interest shown by the tourists has clearly led women to value their own work more.

31Another consequence can be found in the new vision of these women within local society itself. This vision, sceptical, and even critical at the beginning, has changed in time, at least for some, for two main reasons: first, the local population has become aware of the fact that these initiatives were promoted by the Royal Palace and accompanied by the administration, and that they benefited from an institutional legitimacy that many other activities in the valley have never obtained. Then, it realized the scale of the success, even if a very modest one, of commercializing ACF products: “Strange ! But with the output and the price awarded to our activity, mentalities and consideration have changed. There is more respect, more encouragement. And others want to imitate us,” as the female president of the Tikniwine cooperative, the oldest of the ACF in the valley, declares. Another adds: “We are working on something which is appreciated and popular. Now, people are interested in our work. We receive more consideration than before (…) We are showing everyone that we are capable and can succeed…,” as the young female president of the Aït-hkim Women’s Association declares.

  • 7 DTP, a rural commune of Tabant.

32By acquiring their own income, by the fact that their tasks are taken into account in the scale of the activity rate, which increased from 3 % to 37 % for women between 1994 and 20047, these members can prove that they are involved in the development of their valley and that they contribute to household income.

33This recognition by tourists and, although to a smaller degree, by the other inhabitants of the valley, contributes to this feeling of pride so often invoked. It also contributes to legitimizing the reference to an “us”, to a collective subject which has become as much a source of self-representation as grounds for public assertion. Indeed, this “us” is frequently invoked to designate these emerging groups: “we have new places just for us which afford us a source of income.” And this “us” carries material and symbolic satisfaction: “Thanks to these activities, we cover some of our needs. But we see a better future if we work better and more,” as another member declares.

34Another manifestation of this increase in self-confidence also takes a more political form. Without it being possible to determine precisely if these discourses preceded the movement to create ACF or result from it, it is striking to hear numerous women adopt an assertive stance. Today many present the ACF as a tool for the women of the valley to assert their identity and to integrate socety: “Our mothers were raised with ‘be quiet, you don’t know anything’. They had no right to anything, to any local participation, they received no benefit from their work,” as the female manager of the Tikniwine cooperative explains. “We want to work, earn money and be independent from our husbands, our fathers. To also have our place in our village” explains one of the rare members who has managed to participate in the local political sphere. The ACF often happen to be explicitly conceived as means of action, as instruments at the service of resistance identities and at the service of the evolution of the status of women within local society.

35This perspective justifies the importance that many ACF attach to the literacy training of women and to the schooling of young children, girls in particular. The majority of women are illiterate. The Tikniouine cooperative, the oldest and the most dynamic of the ACF with its 35 members, only counts 4 members whose level of school training goes beyond primary school and includes one highschool graduate. In fact, these women themselves constitute the cooperative’s board. On the scale of Morocco, the mountain regions have the lowest levels of schooling among girls. Most ACF of the Ait Bouguemez organize a preschool children’s daycare, weekly classes for their members, and even sometimes introductory classes to some European languages. This activity is very often referred to during interviews: “We always try to attend literacy classes, it’s very important for us…We have a new occupation: books. The men are no longer against it, on the contrary, they encourage us.”

36This investment in the acquisiton of new skills, for themselves and even more so for their children, shows how keen these members are in catching up with a delay accumulated in the field of communication and their interest in breaking out from the induced isolation.


37At the end of this analysis, it is clear that a dozen years after its launch, the policy of the Moroccan state, with its ambitious objectives in terms of gender, has affected even mountain areas far from the capital. The ACF, conceived as an instrument of rural development and of the promotion of female work, have become more numerous in the Ait Bouguemez valley, helping some women access the monetary economy and a certain financial independence. Admittedly, the membership of women has been limited by numerous factors, in particular the lack of available time due to work at home and on the land, but also to the reluctance of many husbands. The social effects of the ACF have thus mainly affected single women, widows and divorcees. From this point of view, the results of this research parallel those of S. Louargant in the Middle Atlas:“The possibilities of constructing a network and a cooperative are infinitely linked to the established value systems which codify women’s practices, establishing a social and ideologically cultural standard” (2008, p. 6). In addition, these women are still far from having reached a state of real independence, because their income is often modest of course, but also and especially because their structures still strongly rely on the administration and on financial help.

38But the most remarkable effects, which in this case reach beyond the sole circle of these ACF members, have become apparent in identity representations. The ACF have provided recognition to the women in the way tourists see them, and a certain legitimacy within local societies, the fruit of their work becoming tangible and marketable. This evolution has allowed for the new expression of a certain self-assurance, a new collective female identity, which is recognized and promoted by the tourists. Consequently, emerging “identity forms” do not depend solely on their tradition or on the inherited social structure, but take into account their life at work, their experiences and their training. Regarding this point as well, our results also parallel those of Sophie Louargant:“These women have appeared as important actors, mobilizing in their own way the accessible resources of their immediate social environment in order to ensure their survival, as well as that of their family and of their community. These women have organized themselves according to their traditional capacities, acquired from their experience of domestic work, as well as from the support of their network. They have transformed the bases into a source capable of supporting the production of goods and services which can be both exchanged and marketed” (2007, p. 12).

39Although the ACF directly affect only a minority of the female inhabitants of the valley, they appear to be decisive vectors in the demands, aspirations and identity transformations claimed by their members, and even by a wider circle of women sensitive to their actions. Even on their modest scale, these institutions encourage the formulating of resistance identities in the face of tradition and mainly male prejudices. Does this however make them identity vectors of projects (Castells, 1999) likely to revolutionize local structures and social dynamics ? This is what the most critical inhabitants fear and they loudly claim that such is the case. The testimonies given by women are more subtle. If they sometimes express anger and demands, what is most apparent is their concern to promote a heritage which is just being discovered, to combine tradition and gender equity and to contribute to the development of the valley and to the well-being of its inhabitants: “Through our work, we want to give a positive image of our region in order for it to develop even more,” as the president of the Tikniwine Cooperative declares.

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1 The Royal speech of 20th August 1999 and the Royal letter of 18th January 2000 strongly express the wish to render justice to women through social equality, empowerment and their involvement in the development process, by referring to the rights of the precepts of the Muslim religion (which constitutes the repository of the requirements of the ancestral and contemporary history of women in Morroco and in the Arab-Muslim world) granted to women.

2 High Commissioner to the Plan, 2004 Statistics.

3 Division for Social Affairs of the Azilal Province.

4 A state program, baptised National Initiative for Human Development, offers the possibility to access specific funds for those communes whose income indicator is situated below a threshold which is regularly updated. The rural commune of Tabant is situated above this threshold. Provincial Territorial Diagnostic, PC Ait Bouguemez.

5 All of the interviews were conducted by the author in dialectal Arabic and translated by her for this publication.

6 Berber alphabet, in the past an abjad, a consonantic alphabet which has undergone modifications and variations from its origins to today

7 DTP, a rural commune of Tabant.

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Wafaa Tizza, « Women of Ait Bouguemez: How Tourism Affects Identities », Via [En ligne], 2 | 2012, mis en ligne le 13 décembre 2012, consulté le 04 décembre 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Wafaa Tizza

University of Marrakech

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