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Access to justice: A big step for Malian women

At an awareness session held in her neighbourhood on gender-based violence, young Fatou (not her real name) dares to tell her story for the first time.

"My parents forced me to marry when I was only 14 years old. For three years, violence was part of my everyday life,” she says. "After trying to escape several times, I went back to my parents’ place. I just wanted a divorce. It was impossible.”

In Mali, few victims of gender-based violence have access to justice.

The Justice, prévention et réconciliation (JUPREC) project [French only] is led by Lawyers Without Borders Canada, the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation, and the École nationale d’administration publique [French only]. With Canada’s support, their goal is to raise awareness about the importance of ending violence against women and girls, and promoting gender equality.

Their partners, including the Association du Sahel d'aide à la femme et à l’enfance [French only], have organized various activities including training on positive masculinity, couples’ dialogues, theatrical tours and community radio programs.

Religious authority figures and traditional leaders have also begun to denounce gender-based violence as a social problem to be eliminated.

In addition, JUPREC is helping victims of violence access the justice system. People delivering legal services have received training and provide victims with information and guidance throughout the complaint process.

With the help of the Association pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits et des femmes Maliennes [French only], Fatou began divorce proceedings.

"If I had known about JUPREC earlier, I would not have suffered so much abuse,” she says. "Your work is really beyond important. Thank you.”

Awareness sessions have affected more than 75,000 people and requests for guidance have significantly increased. Services are more accessible and victims now have tools to better understand and defend their rights.

Gradually, the idea of gender equality is making its way into Mali’s communities. JUPREC participants have seen the behaviour around them become more respectful of women’s rights.

Canada has been a long-time leader in Mali in promoting the rights of women and girls, a key objective in its Feminist International Assistance Policy.

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