Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women's Rights

I am always amazed, or rather disconcerted, when I hear or read of a woman being "ALLOWED" to do something. Perhaps it's because I was not raised in that type of culture/era, where women need permission to do whatever it is they wanted (I do not think my personality would lend way to someone blatantly dictating what I do in my life; in some countries it is what it is...and the price for resistance could even be death!)
Although it happens in many places around the globe (read "Inside the Kingdom" by Carmen Bin Laden for a really in-depth perspective) lately I've been drawn to the story of the women in Mali (the 7th largest country in Africa).
They have been fighting for over 10 years to have their laws changed, yet their President Amadou Toumani Toure refused to sign the law and returned it to Parliament for review (his reason? for the sake of national unity! Apparently he was in support of the new law but the protests by Muslim groups have forced him to send the law back for another review).

President Amadou Toumani Toure
(Google Images)

What unity? Ok, so their laws prohibit discrimination against color, race, language or gender, however female genital mutilation (a.k.a. FGM), violence and trafficking in women are still serious issues in Mali.

Female genital mutilation is common...yes COMMON, and is performed on girls between the ages of six months to six years. Spousal abuse, rape and sexual harrassment are also common, not to mention prostitution, which is legal.

Marriage and Divorce is another big issue in itself. In the United States alone, people jump in and out of marriage faster than a cat in water. Try having your marriage arranged for you when you're as young as nine years old! Girls under the age of 15 can marry with parental consent or permission from a judge. Add to that the complications which arise from FGM and you have a recipe for disaster during childbirth (infections etc).
As for divorce? Women have to pay about $60 (which is a substantial amount of money to them) just to start the process. (The cost to initiate divorce is that high in order to make it almost impossible for them to do so).

Under the new law, women no longer have to obey their husbands, they have equal rights and the minimum age for marriage is raised to 18.
Apparently, mostly Muslim groups are against the new laws (more than 90% of Mali's population is Muslim) hence all the controversy.

So, how can you help? There are many options available...from buying their products so the funds could be donated to the women in Mali to hosting a fundraiser event yourself.
Now I know in these crazy times there are a lot of scams out there and people are skeptical about donating, especially with the economy the way it do a little research.
Here's a site to get you started:
And if your finances are a bit strained right now, then volunteer. There are always ways to help.

Remember: One person cannot do everything but everybody can do something!

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