The position and status of women varies from group to group, and, to a large extent, their status is determined by the social organization of the group in question. Based on national statistics, one can deduce that women make up more than half of the entire population and that about the same number of women receives schooling as men, although this varies in some countries. In general, more women are illiterate than men given the lack of educational opportunities and social services during colonialism and independence and the inaccessibility of much of Berber land.
   Since Berber societies are either matriarchical or patriarchical, the spectrum of women's rights reflects this organizing element. In the matriarchical society of the Tuareg, ethnographic accounts tell of the high position and status of women. They own property, initiate divorce, lead raids, have leadership positions and participate in council deliberations, and do not wear the veil. They are active agents in the public sphere and take the lead in musical celebrations. In patriarchical societies such as those of the Aït Atta of Morocco, women also enjoy a similar position and status as that of the Tuareg except that property and inheritance and public performance tend to favor men. In some areas, women work and irrigate fields, weave, and make pottery.
   In Berber history, women have played vital roles. While there are the examples of al-Kahina, Kenza of Awraba, Lalla Fadhma n'-Soumer, Dassine Ult Ihena, Fadhma at Mansur Amrouche, and Taos Amrouche, women have traditionally had significant and influential roles in Berber societies. During the early resistance against the encroachment of colonialism and the independence struggles, women played decisive roles in the battlefield as well as in the organization of resistance. Since independence, women have slowly managed to contest and chip away at the core fundamentals of patriarchy and have called for equal inheritance, equal age at marriage, equal divorce rights, and the abolition of polygamy. In general, the record is mixed and varies in some countries. Despite some legal gains, the revival of shari`a-minded Islamization and Arabization and the emergence of political Islam throughout the region have heightened women's fears and concerns. Recent research among the Tuareg, for instance, shows that the processes of Arabization and Islamization, alongside those of sedentarization and modernization, have largely undermined the status and position of women in society. These processes, in one way or another, have resulted in the decline of the importance of matrilineal descent, introduction of seclusion of women and polygyny, exclusion of women from judicial and political decision-making structures, and abuse by men of women's marital rights and manipulation of Islamic divorce procedures. In response to these changes, an increasing number of women have opted to live independently of men and are forming all-female communities in the desert-suggestive of classic Tuareg matrilineal-based social organization.
   See also Literature; Music; Tin Hinan.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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