BLOG: From Mali ... with love
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November 28, 2006
by Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean
Mali will resonate for a long time in our spirits and hearts. As soon as we arrived and were welcomed, the tone was set. Hundreds of women on the tarmac were hailing me to the cry of “solidarity among the women of the whole wide world.” And it was under the theme of solidarity that the journey unfolded. From meetings with the President of the Republic to encounters with parliamentarians and organizations of Malian civil society, including exchanges with citizens, the dialogue was engaged each time on issues of great interest.
From the speech delivered in front of the National Assembly of Mali, I sought to pay tribute to the work, the courage and the determination manifested at all levels of society to create a greater place for women that respects their rights, and to act particularly against genital mutilations; these are a violation of their physical integrity and dignity, and their effects are devastating for girls and women. As we went to meet more and more of the population, it was possible to observe this mobilization.
In Dogon country, for example, the inhabitants of ninety-seven villages came to meet me, some after walking for days, in order to shed light on the ways and reasons they ended these practices. The most moving experience was hearing former practitioners of female genital mutilations discuss their decision to stop engaging in these practices, to participate in the work on changing mentalities, and to act against those who refuse to put down their knives and blades in the name of tradition. They saw little girls bleed to death, and they also realized how excision and infibulations have grave consequences, perhaps even irreversible ones, on the health and lives of women.
Religious authorities, elected officials, and members of the health corps, men and women, are united in the struggle against the beliefs and customs that call for female genital mutilations. The debate is well on its way and many are waiting with impatience for the establishment of a new family code strengthened by the measures necessary to eradicate these practices from the entire country.
All these villagers also came to speak about their efforts to adopting an integrated approach to development in their region; how they decide to: improve management of their fresh water resources, combat erosion and promote reforestation, improve the administration of their cultivation practices in order to secure food security, open a new school and a community health clinic, lead family planning and HIV-AIDS prevention campaigns, ban forced marriages, and assemble all of their efforts in a wonderful spirit of community. However, the most delightful was to hear them tell us that it was thanks to Canada’s support that after six years of cooperation, their communities are stronger and more organized than ever, and their achievements as well as their infrastructures are here to stay.
Our trip as well as our blog continue in Ghana…