Mali: the flight of the APSEF against the practice of female excision

 

2016 10 Nana Thiam

The APSEF – Association for the Promotion of the Right and Wellbeing of Children and Families – has the goal to promote and defend women and children’s human rights in Mali, particularly fighting against female genital mutilation, forced marriage and customs harmful to women. Nana Thiam, representative of the APSEF, explained to us the actions that this association carries out in Mali.


AEDH: What is the situation of women rights in Mali?

Nana Thiam: Mali is a society based on traditional and religious beliefs, with many stereotypes and prejudice towards women. The image of a real woman for us is that of a submissive one, in the household and devoted to her children. Women participate very little to the decision-making bodies, even if the decision concern then. In some places, women need their husband’s authorisation to seek medical care or to sell or buy her own goods.

Women are subjected to degrading practices, such as excision, forced marriage (according to an EDSM-V survey of 2006, 66 % of women had been married between the ages of 12 and 15) and domestic violence. The practice of excision in Mali affects 85% of women, and many reasons justify this practice. For some, a non-excised female is insatiable, and cannot control her sexuality. There are also cultural reasons: the clitoris is, for instance, considered as an evil organ that brings misfortune. Excision is also seen as a form of purification, because there is a confusion between tradition and religion: for many religious people, excision is an Islamic obligation.

Formerly, excision was practices on girls aged 15. It was a way to transfer knowledge and power for them to become better future wives. But now the age has changed and excision is practices on girls younger than one year old.

AEDH : How was the APSEF created?

N.T.: the APSEF was created based on the living experiences. Even before the creation of the APSEF, we were already carrying out awareness activities and support for the girls in the neighbourhood. Some of us hosted girls that came from villages to continue their studies in the large cities. It’s from all those realities and difficulties that we decided to create an association, to bring change to the mentalities and to improve the life of future generations.

AEDH : What are the main missions of the APSEF?

N.T.: Our main mission is to contribute to build a fair and equitable society where everyone’s rights are respected. We mainly act to promote rights to health, education and wellbeing, and to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable ones, so that women and young girls can be actors of their own development.

AEDH : What are the specific outcomes directly linked to your actions?

N.T.: In our zones of intervention, we have seen several results :
- There is more and more discussion on excision and sexuality, topic that used to be taboo;
- The creation of local committees with the heads of the villages and the signing of a convention to stop practices of excision in 45 villages;
- The decrease of the rate of child marriage;
- The increase of the rate of solarisation of young girls.

AEDH : What is the nature of AEDH's support and what has it allowed you to accomplish?

N.T.: AEDH has been bringing technical and financial support for more than 10 years and has helped us in the development of our activities and objectives. We are currently working in 100 villages of the Segou region with AEDH, in a project to promote and protect women and children. Among those 10 villages, 5 have already signed the convention to stop the practice of excision and other practices harmful to women.

 

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