The parallel fight - Echoes of resistance

The parallel fight - Echoes of resistance

By Rajaa Essaghyry 

In Morocco, there is a common popular expression “Lmra Hachak” that can be translated to “woman, with all due respect”. My first reflex was to look at the definitions of the expression “with all due respect” that are suggested by Google. The first one I found is: “If someone prefaces a sentence by saying “with all due respect”, it’s a sign that they are likely to unleash something negative or critical, and sometimes quite vulgar and highly disrespectful[1]. You would probably tell me: Why do we even have to add this sentence after pronouncing the word “woman”?”. Technically, according to some kind of archaic traditions, being a woman is an “insult” or an “aberration”, thus requiring adding this expression so as not to “offend” anyone. It seems that some people in our culture consider that quoting the word woman in an assembly or simply in a conversation would be “vulgar” or disrespectful.

This expression is among many others which reflect the retrograde vision reserved for women in patriarchal societies, notably in Morocco; A series of violent expressions, which are still used today. This is why we are observing the everyday language, in order to identify and re-appropriate certain terms, to finally eradicate several expressions which undermine the dignity of women.

Photo Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

In the CUSP N+ project (Culture for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace Network Plus), Racines’s team chose to work on the issue of insidious violence against women. We consider that public and private spaces are zones of conflict for women and girls. Nowadays, and more than ever, pointing out the insidious violence against women in Morocco is becoming an absolute necessity. Our work consists in deconstructing the heteronormative discourse, along with the socio-political constructs of femininity and masculinity. We want to expose the different strategies used by patriarchal societies to not only prepare young girls to be dominated, but also to normalize and legitimize gender-based violence. It is simply a matter of exhibiting all the mechanisms put in place in order to hinder women’s emancipation.

Through the CUSP project we are trying to demonstrate that one of the main solutions to have social stability in a country is through guaranteeing equal opportunities and democracy, built by emancipated citizens who are capable of claiming their rights. This cannot be achieved as long as half of the society (women) are deprived of their rights and treated as second class citizens, through discriminatory laws and archaic traditions.

Through a research-action approach, we collected several life stories and testimonies from Moroccan women. Each story denounced different types of insidious violence suffered by women. Each story showed the actions taken by women to overthrow the patriarchal system and its foundations. Each story illustrated women’s resistance and resilience in the face of violence.

Muriel Rukeyser once said: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”. Speaking out, testifying and sharing with the world are in themselves actions of resistance. Freeing the voices is a fundamental step to fight against silence, alienation and violence. Deconstructing the patriarchal system consists in constructing its puzzle, concept by concept, violence by violence, testimony by testimony… don’t we say that knowing your enemy is the key to better fight it? In this case, our common enemy is patriarchy.

By working in the most remote regions of Morocco, we immediately realized that feminism, as opposed to the common beliefs, is not an invention of the West. This latter is perceived to generate subversion.
The feminist fight is happening inside every Moroccan home, every workplace, in public spaces, on social media, … It is everywhere and it is local.

Women are resisting the status quo and historical roles set up by the patriarchy. Their fight can be anarchist, radical, soft, insidious, violent or peaceful. But their fight is omnipresent, and it would simply be a delusion to ignore it. Recognizing this reality is in itself a celebration of women and their fight. Women are rising up and celebrating their daily small victories and battles against the patriarchy.

I would like to end this text with a quote from the American feminist Gloria Steinem that I find very relevant and sums up very well what we should do, each on our own, to further advance the cause and end once and for all with patriarchy: “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”[2]


[1] Definition suggested by Google of the expression “with all due respect”, (consulted on March 01, 2022)

[2] Quote of the American feminist Gloria Steinem (consulted on March 01, 2022).

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Cuts destroy, hurt, kill: a critical metaphor analysis of the response of UK academics to the UK overseas aid budget funding cuts

Cuts destroy, hurt, kill: a critical metaphor analysis of the response of UK academics to the UK overseas aid budget funding cuts

New Publication Out, authored by Dr Maria Grazia Imperiale and Prof. Alison Phipps

Read the full open access article here

On 11 March 2021, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) body, which leads research funding across the UK, announced a substantial reduction in the international development research budget as a result of the UK government decision to cut the overseas aid budget. Our CUSP Network+ has been affected by the cuts: they had an impact on our project, as we had to pause or reduce our activities for a while.

Nowadays, we know that some projects have been terminated, while for others, funding has been re-instated.

In this article, we analysed news, blogs, interviews that UK-based academics wrote in response to the announcement of the cuts, from 11 March 2021 to 30 April 2021, through Critical Metaphor Analysis (CMA). Metaphors are powerful tools to express concepts and  shape reality. They can reveal language users’ intentions beyond what is said and what is not said. Metaphors are also a common way through which distress can be articulated.


Cuts as an Entity

As an example, we present here what we mean by CUTS ARE AN ENTITY. It is first striking that ‘the cuts’ are often presented as active agents – they abandon, expose, imperil, damage, hinder, destroy, hurt, undermine. The UK government is often mentioned as responsible for the decisions that led to the cuts, however, ‘cuts’ are often used as the subject of sentences. We explain this as CUTS ARE AN ENTITY:

Funding cuts at the United Kingdom’s Global Challenges Research Fund imperil the Rights for Time Network.

The cuts will destroy international partnerships with businesses, governments, and the third sector, as well as the UK’s reputation as a reliable and trustworthy business partner.

We tend to conceptualise things that are not bounded as entities and substances so that we can refer to them and quantify them in an attempt to better comprehend them. Even though ‘cuts’ are a number, and therefore a quantity, the experience of having a project cut is not something we can easily relate to as the consequences are unknown, and as such we might not know how to pin it down. Referring to cuts as entities allow us to identify a particular aspect of it. In addition, using the CUTS AS AN ENTITY metaphor not only helps our understanding but it also allows academics to distance themselves from it; since cuts are an entity of their own, they have their agency and are out of our control. It is the cuts as an entity that destroy, damage, hinder, expose and imperil, and we as academics have limited, if any, agency to stop them.

Cuts are an Illness

Another example, is the metaphor CUTS ARE ILLNESS.

The opposition health/illness has a strong persuasive role since it is evocative of emotions first of all: we associate anyone who is trying to restore health with someone who has the right intentions. Here lies the evocative and persuasive power of health/illness metaphors:

These cuts will not just affect researchers like us: they will hurt the marginalized communities with which we work.

The decimation of this vital funding stream will have drastic impacts.

Research as Connection

In these examples, we can see that metaphors are graded since there are different degrees of health and illness. Stronger evaluations are found in the opposition decimation/vital, whereas hurt may be a milder form of evaluation compared to the other examples on the health/illness spectrum.

It is also important to point out at the time of the cuts, and at the time of writing, the world is trying to re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thus, the polarisation between life/death and health/illness in communication has been omnipresent in the last year. Using health/ illness metaphors in this specific moment in time has a strong persuasive and evaluative function – even more so as some research projects that have been cut have a focus on health and medicine, including vital coronavirus research.

As opposed to cuts which are ILLNESS and THREAT, research is what allows us to break walls and barriers, and ultimately to return to health. We identified the following metaphors related to research: RESEARCH AS CONNECTION, RESEARCH AS HEALTH and RESEARCH AS A JOURNEY.

As an example, I discuss here the metaphor of RESEARCH AS CONNECTION.

The GCRF has enabled UK-based researchers to develop new networks and projects in low- and middle-income countries across the world.

Research can bring proximity as it builds networks and as its foundations are relationships of trust built over the years. Research links, while cuts separate. Research is based on relations, on trust, and nowhere more so than research in international development, where paradigms of participatory work and co-design are the normative basis for working with and safeguarding partners worldwide. The implementation of the cuts has broken the trust that academics had in the UK Research and Innovation funding body. This is a very concerning time for the UK academy.


It must also be said that during our analysis we realised that we also need to reflect on how we represent and communicate our work. The experiences of early career researchers, who often are in precarious positions, and the experiences of the international partners, who are the ones most affected by the cuts, have not been spotlighted in the debate. The GCRF (Global Challenge Research Fund) was created to fund and develop ‘equitable partnerships’. We did believe it, and we sought to change research and develop a more ethical approach that allowed partnerships to be considered equitable.

Perhaps this was an illusion. When someone comes with money, and others are at the recipient end, no partnerships can be equitable. When money is taken away, and only some jobs are affected while others are not, partnerships are not equitable either. When the voices we hear are mostly the ones in powerful positions, again we wonder whether we can call these partnerships equitable.

Perhaps then, we might need to change the discourse around partnerships; surely, we can call them ethical, but perhaps international development research is not and will not ever be equitable. But it definitely can be healthy, it can mean connection, it can be a journey undertaken together for the better.

You can download a copy of the full report and watch a short video about the project here via the TeachingEnglish website.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).