Mali adopted a new Family Code in 2011 which stated that men are to be considered the head of the household and women have to obey their husbands. The Family Code grants men sole parental authority and allows them to have up to four wives. In light of such discriminatory laws, biases and social norms, women’s empowerment in Mali remains a distant dream.
As per the 2013 International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) by CARE International, the following are the key factors that hinder women’s empowerment in Mali:
- The support for inequitable norms by men and women is extremely high.
- Younger men and women, those in urban areas and those with more education generally show support for more equitable norms but are in the minority.
- The vast majority of men continue to be resistant to women’s work outside the home.
- Polygamy, which is the reality for 18 percent of men and 47 percent of women, continues to be supported by many.
- Exposure to violence as children (witnessing and experiencing it directly) is strongly associated with women experiencing Inter-Partner Violence and men perpetrating it.
- High rates of violence, including sexual violence, both witnessed and experienced during childhood (in the home, in communities and in schools).
- Economic stress was reported frequently in qualitative results, particularly the pressure on men to provide for their families.
- Gender socialization of children in Mali continues to reinforce gender inequality.
- There is extremely limited participation by men in domestic chores and the care of children.
- High support for some traditional practices, including excision, which 95 percent of women interviewed said they had experienced.
However, a bold step has been made towards bringing about women’s empowerment in Mali by adopting a landmark gender quota bill that requires a minimum of 30 percent of elected and appointed officials to be women. Young educated men and women continue to struggle for gender parity.
Gender inequality has been reduced in primary education due to campaigns that encourage the enrollment of girls in school but no progress is visible in secondary education because of lack of targeted action and a prevailing sexist attitude.
The transition to women’s empowerment in Mali remains too slow and limited in the presence of strong resistance and gender biases by the women themselves. The most effective method would be to increase men’s understanding of the benefits of an equal society like family health, increased income and child survival. As per the IMAGES report, the key is to develop a more positive notion of masculinity and integrate men’s role in promoting gender equity.
– Tripti Sinha