The number on the corrugated iron door is 184. It belongs to the first house in the shanty town beside the road leading out of Kenitra, about 40 km north of Rabat, Morocco. Saddia Znaïdi, a divorcee, lives here with her five children including her eldest daughter, married and a mother. The mattresses are stacked against a wall and the beaten-earth yard is awash with water spilt while the family was washing on this chilly March morning. At some distance we can hear the thunder of fighter-jet engines warming up on the nearby airbase.
Znaïdi is a Soulaliyate, a member of one of the ethnic groups with a stake in Morocco’s commons, or “collective lands”. She is one of the women battling tradition and male greed, which are depriving them of any form of inheritance. For the past three years they have been campaigning as the Soulaliyate Women’s Movement to obtain compensation. Retrospectively they were one of the forerunners of the wave of social and political protest that has shaken Morocco since February, forcing King Mohammed VI to promise constitutional reform.