A week in the life of a 19-year-old medical student in Morocco
Naceem writes about studying to become a doctor and how gender discrimination limits girls in her community.
Today is my favorite day of the week. I sometimes find myself unable to understand why Mondays are so unappreciated by most people. To me, Monday is synonymous with a new beginning and allows me to have a fresh new start.
Anyways, like every morning, I went to the university hospital to do my training shift as a medical student. Today was a little bit disturbing because I had an argument with the attending resident. I announced to him my aim to become a surgeon and he replied that as future wives and mothers, women should adjust their careers accordingly. Busy, important careers are only for men. That is a common mentality in my country. Even if you’re highly educated, if you are a woman, you will always be seen as nothing more than a housekeeper and a procreation machine.
I was really happy to see a new patient this morning. As always, I struggled to learn her age because she can’t read, she wasn’t registered when she was born and she can’t remember which year she was born. Finally, after finding her identity card, I got all I needed. She was an 80-year-old female named Fatima [name changed for confidentiality]. Like Fatima, 42% of Moroccan women suffer from illiteracy and are deprived of their right to education.
When I asked Fatima about the reason behind her illiteracy, she shared, “Because schools are so far away from the villages and the males won’t let the girls go out alone. They say girls are better off staying home, taking care of the cows and the cleaning.”
Today was a pretty calm, casual day. I went to my morning shift, took care of my lovely patient, had lunch and then I went back to the university to attend the lecture. Today’s lecture was about the heart physiology. I was fascinated by the fact that the heart is capable of working without an external neurological stimulus; the blood flow keeps it working. Another fun fact I learned: the size of an adult heart is almost the size of their fist.
Once back home, I felt inspired to write a new article about feminism in the Arab world. I wrote how being a feminist man doesn’t mean you lack masculinity, it means you have the courage to celebrate the differences between genders and admit our equality. In the Arab world, people still can’t see this clearly. I am still trying to find a way to publish my articles other than on Facebook. I have so many things to say and yet, I find myself unheard.
Today, a friend asked me to give a speech at a student-organized event that is focused on encouraging people to follow their passions. Although I loved the idea of the project, I usually tend to step away from this kind of project because I have had too many experiences when I give my opinion in a meeting with mostly men and it goes unheard. When I complain about it, all I receive as an answer is, “It’s a man's society. When men are talking, women should listen and agree.”
Today is a very special day in Moroccan traditions. It is a holy day in our religion because we believe that it’s the day chosen by God to be dedicated for worship and prayer. So, we celebrate it in a humble way by making couscous and gathering around the table at lunch.
My female friends invited me to go out today and unfortunately, as always, I couldn’t because my father wouldn’t let me go out. Even for college, he refuses to let me go abroad to study. He says that a woman isn’t supposed to go out alone. I always argue with him about my rights but every time I do, I end up getting beaten. He truly believes that women aren’t supposed to have any rights or freedom and says that I should be thankful that I can go to university.
Today is my lazy day. I woke up pretty late and tried to work on the conception of my club that I’m working on. It’s a club that will help people who are less fortunate in my community and support those who suffer from mental health issues. I have always believed that I am happiest when I’m contributing to others’ happiness, which is why I chose med school in the first place.
This article is also available in Arabic.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Naceem is a 19-year-old medical student in Morocco. She is interested in humanitarian issues and hopes to make a change in the world by speaking out for those who don’t have a voice.