It's been a very difficult time in Mali recently. The work of Sini Sanuman, stopping female genital mutilation, has been somewhat slowed down by a military coup d'etat in mid March, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, and other junior officers and soldiers who were very upset by the government's ineffective response to rebels in the north, many of them Tuaregs, a distinct ethnic group, who want independence for the mineral wealthy north of the country, that they call Azawad. The rebels now control the three main cities of that part of Mali, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, and on April 6 declared independence for the Azawad. In the process of taking over, they destroyed hospitals, banks and government offices and created 600,000 refugees and internally displaced people, many of whom are in very difficult straits right now.
Sini Sanuman's office was closed for about a week right after the coup because of security concerns. There were attacks, pillaging and arbitrary arrests in Bamako. Food was scarce and very expensive and is still that way. There was very little gas and it was expensive, so only the rich could buy it. Electricity was sporadic and people were afraid to move around the city. They now have an interim president and a prime minister, and the new ministers are all named. But this government doesn't isn't really in charge of anything. All the power is held by the coup leaders in Kati, in the 2nd region of Mali, Koulikoro, 15km outside of Bamako, which makes it hard for us to pursue things with the legislature as far as getting a law passed against FGM. The interim president is the old president of the legislature, Dioncounda Traore, who gave our signatures on the Pledge Against Excision such a warm reception in 2007, but, when one of our friends recently asked him about the promised law against FGM, he said he had his hands full. Read about the coup at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/07/mali-coup-leader-to-give-up-power Things seemed to be starting to get back to normal but then recently, April 30 and May 1, fighting broke out in Bamako as soldiers loyal to the original government tried to take back the TV station and airport from the coup fighters, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/04/201243021132449292.html. We are not sure how serious this will become. Through it all Sini Sanuman has been doing what it can, but it certainly is not the best time for a campaign like ours.
Wyoma and I made a presentation at the Community Church of Boston in March, which was well received. One of our friends, Kwame Somburu, made a video of it and shared it with me. If you'd like to see it, here are the links:
http://youtu.be/2uSQr1btqok - Susan and Wyoma presenting work of Sini Sanuman
http://youtu.be/bBAWJkha4Mw - Wyoma’s comments and dance for Full Girl Maturation
http://youtu.be/ykXSczUJHmY - questions from audience
If you can think of other places that might like a similar presentation, we'd love to go report on our work, wherever people might be interested.
The people who did the poster project with us last year, Mon Frere in London, have come out with a video about the project and it includes comments from many of the people in the posters. The music in it all comes from our album, Stop Excision. The video really shows what it looks like and feels like in Bamako. We have copies of the posters available, if case anyone would like them. Here's the link: http://vimeo.com/20074943.
An American student, who spent a few months in Bamako and left just before the coup, called me the other day and reported that she knew about us because, wherever they went in Bamako, they saw our posters, the portraits of famous Malians with quotes against FGM. It was great to hear that, a year later, they're still very much in evidence around the town. Very encouraging.
We identified a woman in one of our presentations who suffers from a fistula. That means that she has urinary incontinence because of childbirth problems related to FGM. We have been helping her get ready for an operation that the PNLE, the government office on FGM, is paying for. The wife of ex-president, Amadou Toumani Toure, made a grant to the government to help such women.
We were very excited last year when we got a big grant from UNICEF to do outreach through public meetings, the media and posters, but it's been a real mixed blessing. The workers on the project are now over 5 months late in being paid, money that will come from the the second installment of the grant which was due in early December 2011 but, in a testament to how committed our staff is, everyone is still working. Our staff of 8 refuses to stay home and is spreading our message against FGM throughout District I of Bamako, except for taking a short time off after the coup. We are assured that UNICEF will finally pay us very soon, but it continues to be a terrible strain on all involved.
Because of the coup, changes were made in the leadership of all the ministries and that caused changes at the national TV station which resulted in the great anti-FGM classic film Moolaade being shown on TV in March. About 4 million people saw this powerful story about a woman who refuses to have her girl excised and then gives refuge (moolaade) to 4 girls who escaped from an excision ceremony and finally convinces her whole village to stop excising forever. You can see more about Moolaade at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moolaad%C3%A9.
It's the same general story that has happened in our 9 villages and the 400 villages around Mali that have decided to stop mutilating their girls. As a reminder, I'm including below the Declaration of Moussala, the statement made by our first village to stop excising, back in 2005. We expect to continue our work in villages when we finalize our understanding with our Dutch friends at STM foundation.
We welcome support, moral and financial, from our friends in this difficult time. You can give through the website or, for a tax-deduction, send checks, made out to Creative Thought and Action, to 14 William St, Somerville, MA 02144.
Yours for a better day
Susan McLucas aka Mariam Sacko
Declaration of Moussala
March 12, 2005
We, the women and men of Moussala, in Kalabancoro, circle of Kati, Mali, have taken the decision to never again excise girls in our village. We have seen that there are many drawbacks and no advantages to this practice.
Our girls don’t deserve this traumatizing and degrading experience and they have the right to their whole bodies. This decision has been taken for the health and well-being of our girls, the women of tomorrow.
We encourage every Malian to take this same decision, individually and collectively, so that excision will disappear from Mali.
President of the women of Moussala
“We will mobilize all our women for our well-being.”
Wife of the imam of Moussala
“I will call on the imam to preach and convince the men.”
Village chief of Moussala
“I will make sure that the end of excision in my village is total.”
President of the Committee of Moussala
“I will spread the message to the whole village and surrounding area to safeguard our women.”