Doussou Traoré Magassouba and her fight for women’s rights
Kayes, a provincial capital in the very west of Mali near the Senegal River and at 495 kms from the capital Bamako. Like in many other places in Mali women and youths hold a different social status compared to (older) men. For instance, they are hardly involved in governance processes. Which is a paradox, since they play a key role in the development of their country. It is in this context that Doussou Traoré Magassouba's fight for the promotion of women's rights takes place.
Digital technology fostering access of women to decision-making
For many years, Doussou Traoré Magassouba has been advocating women’s rights in Mali. She emphasises the importance of involving women in governance. She was a teacher for 20 years earlier in her career:
‘Getting women in decision-making boards has always been an uphill battle. Until recently, not only rural women with no access to education but even educated women hardly knew their rights.’
After teaching, she got an assignment working at Mali’s Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children and Families:
‘As a teacher, I noticed that women did hardly know their rights. I wanted this to change. I believe that knowing your rights is of the first and foremost importance. Only after you know your rights, can you consider your duties.’
In 2002, because of her leading a programme promoting women’s rights and fighting female genital mutilation, she became a Knight of the National Order of Mali. In 2003, she was appointed Regional Director for the Promotion of Women in Kayes, a provincial capital in the very west of Mali near the Senegal River and at 495 kms from the capital Bamako.
Like in many other places in Mali women and youths hold a different social status compared to (older) men. For instance, they are hardly involved in governance processes. Which is a paradox, since they play a key role in the development of their country.
The difficult situation does not discourage Doussou Traoré Magassouba. She has overcome many obstacles during her career as an advocate of women’s rights. With the NGO Grdr, and with the support of Wehubit, she aims to effectively realise women’s rights, in accordance with Mali’s laws, which touches upon the core of the matter.
‘Our government signs agreements but does not implement them.’
Doussou Traoré Magassouba (testimonyl) - project launch - April 4, 2019 ©Grdr
In 2015, Malian authorities introduced Law 052, which stipulates that either gender should represent at least 30% of appointed members in institutions of the Republic of Mali or of people elected for the National Assembly, the Territorial Community Councils or the High Council of Communities. In short, 30% of elected representatives in Mali must be women.
But for Doussou that is not enough:
‘Even though women have played a major role in making Mali into a democracy, they have not been rewarded for their efforts. Only very few women get elected. From the very beginning of democracy until the eve of the latest elections the Kayes region had no female representative.’
Currently, there are only two women among the 21 representatives of the Kayes region and there are only three women among the region’s 129 mayors.
‘This is the result of Law 052 but the Law failed to achieve its objective. In some cases the prefects, who stand above the mayors, are unfamiliar with the Law; in other cases they cannot or do not want to understand it.’
Even though steps are taken in the right direction, there still is much ignorance about the Law. Doussou is changing this with the NGO Grdr and Wehubit.
’When the Law was approved we vulgarised its content with the support of Grdr. Now, some women in the Kayes region know most of their rights.
Official opening speech by the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Kayes - project launch -
April 4, 2019 ©Grdr
But there still is a long way to go before 30% of women take full part in policy-making.
‘Cultural pressure is the main impediment. Men do not want to take orders from women. In some communities mayors banned me from explaining the content of the Law. I answered that mayors are representatives of the community, but the community belongs to all. Another point is that women cannot always accept that another woman gets promoted. Women should listen to each other and work together. Now, women start to be aware of these impediments and the need to overcome them. We do not want to do away with traditions, but apply the involvement of women as it is laid down by law.’
VOICE MESSAGING = BROADER REACH
With the financial support of Wehubit, Grdr invested in voice messaging technology. With voice messages that are disseminated via Facebook and WhatsApp women and youths are informed about Law 052.
‘This new project also reaches people in other regions. Digital technology has really improved access to information. If every woman is made aware of the content of Law 052 major changes can be achieved.’
Smartphone Survey Training - Digital Inclusion Diagnostics and CSO Mapping - April 8, 2019 ©Tuwindi
Doussou believes also unschooled women can be reached this way:
‘I am not that familiar with the computer myself, but I use my phone to send e-mails and access social media. Voice messaging and videos really are helpful. Also a woman who has not attended school can make voice messages. Much more becomes clear to these women, if they are accompanied. Digital technology can push back frontiers and help women gain access to decision-making processes.’
Connected space Nioro Sahel - 22 May 2019 ©Tuwindi
Even at age 66 she remains combative and believes in change for the better and that every citizen of Mali – youth, elder, man or woman – can be part of this change.
‘Tomorrow’s Mali will be better off with women and youths involved in governance. And tomorrow’s Mali will be a beautiful Mali.’