Aïcha Chenna: Morocco's 'Mother Teresa', passes away at 81

Aïcha Chenna: Morocco's 'Mother Teresa', passes away at 81
On social media, tributes and recognition poured from around the globe to mourn the passing of "Morocco's Mother Teresa", who advocated for women's rights until her last breath.
3 min read
26 September, 2022
The renowned activist (right) has said that she received several death threats accusing her of "encouraging prostitution" in Morocco. [Getty]

Aïcha Chenna (Ech-Chenna), dubbed "Morocco's Mother Teresa" and renowned women's rights activist, died on Sunday at a hospital in Casablanca after a health crisis. She was 81.

Born in Casablanca in 1941, Aïcha Chenna is an emblematic figure of activism for single mothers' rights in the North African country.

Amid a societal context that shames, neglects and casts out single mothers and children born out of wedlock in Morocco, Chenna has decided to embrace and empower them, breaking a long-standing taboo.

In 1985, Chenna founded the Association Solidarité Féminine (ASF), the first Moroccan association to help single mothers.

In Morocco, children born out of wedlock are technically illegal, and the process of "legitimising" a child is especially difficult if the father is not present

Chenna's association offers three-year training courses, including catering, hairdressing, and beauty care, as well as literacy courses.  

While the mothers are engaged in productive courses, their children are cared for in a kindergarten within the association.

The association also provides legal advice and help for an average of 500 women per year.

The veteran nurse was inspired by her journey through Moroccan hospitals, where she encountered the ugly reality that single mothers endure.

Chenna, who lost her father at an early age, also witnessed the injustice "men-less women" face in a patriarchal society.

The Moroccan activist left behind a long list of recognitions from international independent and governmental organisations, including the European Union.

However, Chenna's activism was not to the taste of everyone, namely conservatives. 

The renowned activist has said that she received several death threats accusing her of "encouraging prostitution" in Morocco.

In 2000, the activist faced a fatwa after her appearance in an interview with the Qatari TV channel Aljazeera, during which she defended the rights of single mothers in the region.

Her honesty and frankness on sexism and misogyny in Moroccan society distraught many parties who prefered burying such uncomfortable conversations.

On social media, tributes, tears and recognition poured from across the globe, mourning the loss of "Morocco's Mother Teresa who had advocated for women's rights until her last breath."

Many Moroccan activists took the opportunity to renew demands to legalise abortion in the kingdom amid a pro-abortion campaign prompted by the recent death of a 14-year-old victim of rape during a clandestine abortion.

The Moroccan Criminal Code currently prohibits abortion unless a doctor or surgeon considers that the mother's health is at risk and provided the woman has the consent of her spouse.