Fatna El Khiel, a fighter at the head of Arbaoua

 In its progress towards a more egalitarian and modern society, Morocco has seen a turning point in the promotion of women’s participation in politics. Political parties began to target women who were very active in the voluntary sector, such as Ms. Fatna El Khiel, who was first approached in 1984.

In 1992, the doctor specializing in public health joined the ranks of the National Rally of Independents (RNI). A mother, doctor and activist rolled into one, she successfully juggled between different fields and responsibilities. From 2000 to 2002, she was an advisor to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Popular in her constituency of Gharb, Fatna El Khiel wanted to stand for direct election in the 2002 legislatives. Faced with her party’s refusal, she left the RNI and joined the National Popular Movement (MNP), which granted her accreditation as head of the local list. Competent and dedicated, Fatna El Khiel won the Gharb hands down. Very active in her constituency, she told the press that “politics is all about working closely with people to solve their day-to-day problems. It’s a long-term, support job”. A year later, her parliamentary group nominated her for the parliamentary office, where she was elected the party’s candidate by an overwhelming majority.

Fatna El Khiel continued to illustrate the political and social revolution as one of the first figures of female leadership when, in 2003, she was elected second vice-president of Parliament, a milestone that was unprecedented in the history of the Kingdom of Morocco. It was therefore a particular new parliamentary year, marked by greater female representation.

A parliamentary deputy until 2016, she held the position of Vice-Chairwoman of the House of Representatives until 2008. Between 2003 and 2015, Ms. El Khiel was also in charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Kenitra Provincial Council. After a decade of mobilization on behalf of the population and the cause of women, she ran in the 2009 municipal elections and became mayor of her hometown, Arbaoua, in the Province of Kenitra. Here too, Fatna El Khiel symbolizes, alongside the other women elected at this time, a female leadership that is asserting itself on the political arena to contribute to an accelerated development of the country through the promotion of more inclusive and fairer public policies, as female representation in the June 2009 communal elections increased by over 250% compared to 2003, with over 3400 women elected compared to just 127 in the previous elections.

Fatna El Khiel continues to reap the rewards of her hard work and courage. She is now in her 3rd term at the head of the Arbaoua commune, a sign of the trust and satisfaction of the women and men who can testify to concrete results in terms of development in their town. “We listen to the people from all social backgrounds and all age groups, and this is done during the elaboration of the communal action plan. With the participatory approach, this action plan must meet the real needs of the population,” she explained during an interview with UCLG Africa in 2023. The mayor’s priorities are “good governance, the implementation of local development” and “the inclusion of the gender approach in the budgeting and programming of development projects” to meet the imperative needs of women.

In 2017, Fatna El Khiel was appointed Secretary of State for Housing by His Majesty King Mohammed VI. In the same year, she was elected President of the Moroccan chapter of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA). “Morocco, under the enlightened leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, is fully committed to the gender approach in public policy and this demonstrates the positive interactions of all components of society and the maturity of the culture of progress. These choices have enabled many women to occupy decision-making positions and to strengthen their participation in national, continental and international politics”, she had declared before some forty elected women who came from different regions of the Kingdom for the renewal of the REFELA-Morocco board in Rabat on March 17, 2023, when Fatna El Khiel was re-elected President. At the African regional level, she is REFELA’s vice-president for North Africa.

Very active at all levels, including international, Fatna El Khiel has been Vice-President of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) since 2010. She is also a member of the Moroccan partner delegation for local democracy at the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and a member of the high-level group of foreign figures at the National Council for Development and International Solidarity (CNDSI France).

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6