During her ongoing visit to Mali and the Sahel region, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has taken the opportunity to directly connect with a group of over forty women, including representatives from the North of Mali and refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
During their interactions, she re-echoed her conclusions of the devastating impact of the crisis on women, children and the elderly, and called for women's full engagement in the ongoing national dialogue process.
"Lasting peace and reconstruction will not be possible without the participation of over half of the Malian population, without the participation of Malian women." She insisted.
Briefing Dr. Dlamini Zuma on the impact of the crisis, the women stressed that, though they may be representing different regions and groups from across the country, they are speaking to her as the women of Mali.
"Many women in the camps are not literate and they feel excluded. As we plan for their return to the communities, we must ensure not only the safety of these communities, but also empower the women to participate in the social and economic reconstruction of their communities and the country." One of the women representatives told the AUC Chairperson.
The women expressed hope and optimism with President Ibrahim Boubcar Keita's commitment to national reconciliation and peace.
They urged Dr. Dlamini Zuma to champion their cause, ensuring that women are included in all the processes unfolding in the country: the peace talks and the reconciliation processes as well as the soon to be held legislative elections, in government and the administration.
The AU Commission Chairperson in her response praised the resilience and courage of the Malian women, under very difficult conditions.
She reassured them that the struggle for the rights of women to participate in all the affairs of the country is a universal struggle, being fought by women across the continent, in conflict and non-conflict situations alike. Women therefore have to unite and work together for their right to participate.
"Your struggle is our struggle and if you succeed, the women of Africa succeed." Dr. Dlamini Zuma, once again, congratulated the women for their resilience, and encouraging them to keep up with the noble struggle.