Hafida Hdoubane is one of Morocco’s first female mountain guides.
In a male-dominated industry, she has been paving the way for other women to enter the trekking industry since 1994. Unfortunately, progress is still slow. Hdoubane is only one of 10 licensed female, mountain guides in Morocco. Hdoubane claims, “When I passed my exam to become a mountain guide, I was surprised there were no other female guides, just me.”
Hdoubane leads women-only tours in Morocco that facilitate exchanges between women travelers and Berber women. The exclusivity of female-only groups, alongside a native Moroccan guide, allow for connections to take place during the visit.
Gender inequality is still an ongoing issue in Morocco. ” I grew up in a family of 6 women, said Hdoubane. “My father disliked us because we were women. I had to show him that I was very strong and could do anything a man could do. That’s really what made me become a guide. Toubkal is the highest mountain in Morocco, I think I did it 200 times.”
Hdoubane launched her own trekking company 25 years ago after climbing the Pyrenees mountains as a student; her company also works with Intrepid Travelers and Peak DMC to lead mountain and cultural exchanges. Zina Bencheikh, the manager of Peak DMC Marrakech lobbied Congress in 2017 to make the exams easier for women who want to become a guide. Now, more women are applying and receiving licenses. The unemployment rate in Morocco for women is high. According to the United Nations Human Development, for ages 15 and older, 74% of men are employed, compared to 25% female. As a result, Peak DMC is actively working to hire more female guides, they recorded 16% of their guides to be women in 2018.