Breaking the silence on gender-based violence in Mali

Adama Sanogo is Program Officer at Family Care International in Mali, working at the national office in Bamako and supervising FCI’s programs in Mopti. Adama authored a post on gender-based violence last year. 

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Samira [not her real name], a married Burkinabe woman, took a vacation to Mali to visit her sister. One evening, they attended the Balani Show, a cultural festival of traditional music and dance, in Mopti. Samira’s sister decided to go home early, but Samira opted to stay out a little later. Later that evening, Samira walked back to her sister’s house alone when a group of young men—residents in her sister’s neighborhood—attacked and gang-raped her. The next morning, Samira contacted Family Care International for care and took her case to the police. Her attackers and their families immediately began to pressure her to drop the case. As the social intimidation mounted, even Samira’s own sister, afraid of conflict with her neighbors, advised Samira to stop pursuing the case. Despite encouragement from social workers and legal counsel provided by Family Care International (FCI), Samira eventually abandoned the case against her rapists. Although Samira wasn’t able to pursue justice, she found support, and allies, at FCI.

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Mali in Crisis: FCI helping survivors of gender-based violence

Adama Sanogo is Program Officer at FCI-Mali, working at our national office in Bamako and supervising FCI’s programs in Mopti, a city on the Niger River an 8-hour drive to the north.

Over the past two years, northern Mali has suffered a series of repeated and increasingly devastating crises. Long-term drought that has plagued the Sahel region of Mali and its neighboring countries – the area that borders on the Sahara desert – led to a dramatic rise in food insecurity in 2011; this was followed in 2012 by a worsening security situation, culminating in an invasion of armed rebel groups that declared the independence of the country’s three northernmost regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. In March 2012, the national government in Bamako was overthrown in a military coup, and fighting between the military and the northern rebels continued into 2013.

The result has been a humanitarian disaster, as nearly half a million Malians fled their homes to escape fighting and hunger. The city of Mopti, where FCI has been implementing adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs for several years, is the gateway to the northern part of the country, and it has seen a massive influx of people displaced from the north, seeking refuge or transit to other parts of the countries.

Training gender-based violence ‘focal points,’ Socoura village, near Mopti

To help address this crisis, in a post-coup environment in which it was difficult or impossible for international agencies to work with an unstable new government, UNICEF asked FCI’s team in Mopti to take on emergency projects to provide support to the many women who had experienced gender-based violence when war convulsed their home region, and to help protect the rights of children among the large displaced population.

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