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The Malian Presidential elections were delayed after a coup d’état took place on March 21st 2012. Women have played a remarkable role in Malian politics with a small number of women holding Ministerial posts and seats in the National Assembly. Aminata Dramane Traoré, author and political activist have served as the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Mali, coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme, and board member of the International Press Service. 

The Socio-Economic and Political Status of Women in Mali  

In Mali, women represent 52% of rural population with between 64.2%-80% living below the poverty line  (EDS III 2001). "Women" are a particularly disadvantaged group. 71.7% of women aged 15 to 49 years have had limited to no access to education, literacy rate in women was estimated to be 12.1% in 1998, high maternal mortality and total fertility rates (6.7). Largely as a result of their socio-economic position women have limited access to decision-making bodies (14 women MPs out of 147 men in the National Assembly, four women Ministers of a Government of 28 members in 2002).

Further challenges to women's political participation include a gender biased legal framework that discriminates against women's, the state's failure to recognize some of women's rights in practice, and a lack of awareness among women about their rights.  

Postponed Elections & the Impact on Women

Sidibé Aminata Diallo, a professor at the University of Bamako, is leader of the Movement for Environmental Education and Sustainable Development political party, and in 2007 became the first woman to stand for President of Mali as one of eight candidates in the April 2007 presidential election. Diallo received over 12,000 votes in the election, 0.55% of the total[1].  Unfortunately the coup d’etat led by the military has not only left the country in an emergency state affecting the lives of all Malian men and women it has jeopardized any female candidates choice of running in any future election. The loss of the northern half of the country to Tourag fighters shortly after the coup has plunged Mali into crisis in which the use of violence goes beyond the battlefield[2].

 

"As unrest continues in northern Mali, an alarming number of acts of sexual violence have been reported," the U.N.'s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom, said. "Allegations include abductions, public rapes and subjecting women and girls to acts of sexual violence in front of family members[3]."

To break the cycle of violence and discrimination against women it is vital to change these attitudes both within formal government and within society and both on the part of men and among women themselves[4]. Without a voice in decision-making, and access to the institutions which shape social norms and attitudes, women will continue to be marginalized.

At this critical turning point in Mali’s democratic transition it is important to ensure that women are not only interpreted as victims of the conflict but have the opportunity to take part in peace making; as their participation is important for the reconstruction of trust between citizens and the state.



[1] NDI-Mali

[2] Aljazeera March 21, 2012

[3] Mail & Guardian  April 24 2012

[4] Africa Leadership Forum
Africa Women’s Forum
Third International Conference
on "Women and Conflict Management in Africa" Keynote speech
by
Angela E.V. King Assistant Secretary-General
Special Adviser on Gender Issues and
Advancement of Women

22 January 2001 

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