One of the hallmarks of taking a trip with Overseas Adventure Travel is meeting the people. We learn so much from these cultural interactions and often our lives can be forever changed from these encounters. I will never forget the woman I met in Vietnam who looked at me and simply said, “I want your life.” When I first wrote about the encounter I had with a woman in Morocco – a similar and unforgettable experience on the OAT trip Morocco’s Sahara Odyssey – I did so when writing about my experience in the rural indigo blue town of Chefchaouen. However, since that time, the world has been through a global pandemic, and I was curious how women in Morocco fared in terms of healthcare.
Meeting this woman in her 40s several years ago was a real eye opener when she came to talk to us about women’s issues in Morocco. No topic was taboo. I asked about the state of women’s health care, and she really wasn’t sure what I meant, so I just shifted the question to health care in general. She said it’s all pretty good in Morocco but most people don’t have any type of health insurance. She started fanning herself quite a bit, and it wasn’t really hot inside the hotel where we were. She and I had made a good connection, so I spoke to her after.
I told her laughingly not to worry, the hot flashes get better. Then she started complaining about them and said she didn’t know what to do about it. I asked her if she had spoken to her doctor. She asked what kind of doctor would she even see? So I told her how such things are handled in America for women’s health, and she was completely stunned. She said she would look into it.
The average lifespan for both men and women in Morocco is about 75. Women don’t necessarily out live the men, and I guess this lack of understanding about basic healthcare is why. She knew absolutely nothing about getting physical checkups, and the things women are taught at an early age in America. I found it ironic that it’s been her job to help women there, but in this most personal of conversations, I helped her.
But indeed, women are extremely disadvantaged in Morocco in terms of healthcare. In the most recent study I found, which included Covid healthcare for women, gender inequality is still an issue for women in Morocco relative to healthcare, even during the pandemic. The study revealed that in the larger cities, 69 % of male led households had access to healthcare, and only about 57% of female led households did. The numbers were about the same for reproductive healthcare, with 62 percent for male heads of households compared to 52 per cent for women.
But in the rural areas such as Chefchaouen, only about 17% of women had access, compared to nearly 64 % of male heads of households. That is an enormous difference. Covid or not, this would explain why the woman I met had no idea what she was experiencing or what to do about it.
According to the Moroccan Ministry of Health in 2017,aound the time I was there, only 7.9 per cent of healthcare workers were available for every 10,000 people. People in rural areas such as Chefchaouen were typically underserved. For common illnesses during the pandemic, male heads of households fared much better with pretty much the name statistics as cited above: 62 per cent of male led households were able to get healthcare access as opposed to 52 per cent for women heads of households.