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How a Radio Show Gives Unwed Mothers in Morocco a Voice

Legal changes gave Moroccan women more rights, but unwed mothers still face prosecution and stigma. A Tangier radio station, Mères en Ligne, gives them a voice.
Kaoutar Belhirech (left) and Fatima Tourari (right) in the Mères en Ligne radio station.
Kaoutar Belhirech (left) and Fatima Tourari (right) in the Mères en Ligne radio station.Molly Keisman

TANGIER, Morocco— Fatima Tourari, 27, realized she was pregnant during Ramadan. She had been raped a few weeks before the Muslim holy month, but kept it a secret because in Morocco, even rape victims risk blame for having sex outside of marriage, which is illegal. “He did what he did, and I don’t like remembering it,” she says. Tourari finally disclosed the pregnancy to her mother, who cried and told her daughter to leave, saying she’d have nothing to do with her.

Six years later, thanks to the assistance of a social worker, Tourari has a weekly show on Mères en Ligne, a radio station run by single mothers to advocate for their rights. She works at a garment factory in Tangier and shares an apartment with her son Amir—a curious four-year-old who dreams of meeting his extended family, a current impossibility as the family has ceased contact. In Morocco where unwed mothers are often forced to live in shame, Mères en Ligne is an anomaly. The station has committed itself to a monumental task: changing Moroccans’ perceptions of unwed mothers.