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Women's Program Launched in Volatile Northern Mali


Dicko Aminata Traore, president of the Manu River Women Peace Network, in Bamako, Mali, 29 Jul 2010

Dicko Aminata Traore, president of the Manu River Women Peace Network, in Bamako, Mali, 29 Jul 2010

The Manu River Women Peace Network, a West Africa-wide association that works to improve living conditions for women, is launching a program in Mali's extreme north, where conflict, hunger and drought are affecting hundreds of thousands.

The desert region of Northern Mali is blighted by conflict, food insecurity and lack of water. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from acute hunger in this region that skirts the border with Niger. It is also the site of a long-running conflict between Tuareg rebels and the government.

As part of an effort to aid local women, the Manu River Women Peace Network is launching a program in the regional capital, Kidal.

Dicko Aminata Traoré, the president of the network in Mali, said peace in the region could lead to development, and development could help bring peace.

When the program is launched in September, the first challenge will be increasing access to water in the region, which has been suffering under the effects of a drought. Poor rainfall and a bad harvest in the area are severely affecting 258,000 people. A further 371,000 are at risk of sickness caused by dehydration and hunger.

The association plans to construct water reservoirs to enable women to collect water for their families.

But Traore said aid agencies and other groups are short of funds to carry out their work.

She said the Manu River Women Peace Network is looking for partners to help improve the lives of women in the region.

The association has a history of working in areas of conflict. It was launched in 2000 to respond to the needs of women who had been caught up in conflict in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Since then, it has launched programs in Ivory Coast, Guinea and Mali.

The figurehead of the program in Mali is the country's first lady, Madame Touré Lobbo Traoré.

Ousseynou Chiaw, a consultant with the Manu River Network, said the fact that she comes from the Northern region is important.

Last week an American engineer was killed by al-Qaida in Northern Mali. Traoré said that a more hopeful future for the region lies in the hands of women as well as men.

She said that the country is beginning to open the door for women in politics and development in Mali.

In September, the Manu River Network will celebrate 50 years of independence in Mali with a theme highlighting the role of women in conflict prevention.

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