amy thompson



This photo is from a collection of images, titled Behind Walls. It is a documentary essay about life at a girls’ dormitory, known as a Dar Taliba, in rural Morocco. I arrived to the country as reforms to the Moudawana, or Islamic family law, were in the process of being pushed through parliament by the young King Mohammed VI, placing women’s rights at the forefront of the national dialogue. Yet with so many females unable to read or write, I wondered, how could they become full citizens who could stand up for their new rights or even participate in the debate?

The challenge of educating girls is especially acute in the countryside, where, because of economic limitations and cultural traditions, illiteracy for women can reach as high as 90 percent – about 30 percent higher than the national average. To combat the problem, dormitories have been built as part of a national initiative to help girls in remote areas continue their education.

My goal was to photograph the everyday lives of girls who were taking part in this historic process. I also wanted to reconnect with the country where I had lived for years as a young girl, when my father served as the U.S. military attaché to the Muslim nation.

My exploration led me to the Dar Taliba, a girls’ dormitory located in southern Morocco, in El Hanchane, a small dusty town between the tourist spots of Marrakesh and Essaouira. I photographed behind the walls separating the girls from the public space of boys and men. The images were made in 2004.

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