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Helping local communities build trust in Mali

Aminatou, the President of CAFO, in Mali

Aminatou is 56 and lives in the commune of Borem-Inaly, 45 KMS from the city of Timbuktu. She is an active member of the local forum, the President of CAFO (Coordination des ONG et des Associations Feminine) in her commune and a leader of a local women’s mediation commission which is actively supported by the forum of Borem-Inaly.

Speaking about the security governance project that Alert is implementing in the region of Timbuktu with its national partner, AMSS (Association Malienne pour la Survie au Sahel) she says, “this project is very important for us - every time we hold a local forum every member attends. No-one is absent because we each appreciate that this forum directly contributes to the life of our commune.” Aminatou says the Borem-Inaly forum members are satisfied with what they are doing through the forum, especially regarding its impact on local conflicts. The women working with the local mediation commission they established themselves have broken new ground in managing entrenched conflicts that few believed local women could tackle. “I will give you an example” she says: “we women members of the commission de mediation recently visited a remote village by boat, to support the community to resolve a conflict between two local men who both demanded to be chief of the same village. Even as we stepped off the boat we were welcome by everyone, especially the women who said they were very happy to see other women playing this role in their communities.”  

Aminatou believes these actions by the commission have also really strengthened relationships between other women, who now see them as role models in resolving conflicts.

“Before this [International Alert] project, our commune was divided between the community themselves and especially between the local chiefs, who were divided between themselves” she says.  “These divisions became normal, because we did not have a space to talk about what was happening, to dialogue. The presence of our forum has changed all this. Its real value is that through the forum we put the interests of the commune first, and people notice this. If we do not have a local chief who everyone trusts then we all live with impunity –  because there is no accountability, no-one to guide the community through its difficulties with local governance, and then you see all sorts of conflicts that are not resolved and [that] can escalate into hard violence.”

She says local commune residents definitely want the forum in Borem-Inaly to continue. “We have seen a change in ourselves, in our own abilities to accept others and hear what they say. Other people, outside our forum are touched too: they are learning to understand each other better, and accept each other and this is helping our whole community. We get phone calls from people wanting help from us because now they know we are here, and what we are capable of.”

The women’s commission de mediation managed the recent Borem-Inaly micro-project that was financed by Alert and supported by its national partner, AMSS. The women of commission visited four local villages also wrestling with disputes between local chiefs, and have in addition mediated in their own town, where two families are currently claiming the right to install their own patriarch as the local chief.

“These actions are changing local perceptions: local men are now seeing local women managing a conflict that they were not able to change” she says. “The villagers of Beragoungou were so appreciative of our mediation efforts, they traveled to our commune with a sheep to thank us for our contribution. And I tell you, the two men contesting to be the chief here in our own community [of Borem-Inaly] are now participating in our local forum.”

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