SBA ROUADI, MOROCCO – “My hair used to be beautiful,” Fatima Fathane laments, her wrinkled hands stroking long, wispy strawberry red locks tinged with grey as she sits on the sdader, Moroccan couch, of the one-bedroom concrete home. It’s just one more part of her life that is out of her control, one more thing taken away by years of stress and labor.
The house does not belong to Fathane, though it was built with her own money. That’s because, under Moroccan law, a house is the property of the husband.
“Every now and then I talk to him and say, ‘are you going with me to the notary to have this registered?’ and he keeps saying ‘yes, yes, yes.’” she says.
It is even possible that, after her husband dies, Fathane would have have to share the house with her husband’s other three wives. Tears cloud her eyes as she acknowledges that there is nothing left that she can do.
This was never the life Fathane wanted for herself and her children. It was Alal, her husband, who decided to move her to the village in 1994 to avoid paying rent on her apartment in Fez. Desperate not to move, Fathane asked for a divorce. But Alal convinced her otherwise.
Fathane eventually gathered enough money from her savings and her father’s inheritance to build her own small home. But she built it on her husband’s land, making him the recognized owner under the law.
Now living with her two children Sara, 19, and Soufiane, 18, Fathane has made a living for her family. But it is not a life.
Fathane’s aspirations have turned to her children. Her only hope now, Fathane says, is to see them attend school abroad.
“They are not living a normal life like the other kids,” she says.
She knows they are frustrated, and wants them to have the life and education she never achieved for herself. But with money and resources low, hope is tempered by limitations.
“I am always asking God on a daily basis to help me,” she says. “That is my last resort.”