SEATTLE, Washington — Mali, a landlocked African country with close to 20 million citizens, has a past riddled with conflict. Despite a coup that ended the dictatorial government in the early 1990s, there have been political tensions and conflicts plaguing the country ever since. Along with this conflict comes violence, not just from armed fights but within households. One major issue that Mali faced in the past, and continues to face today, is gender-based violence. Between January and September of 2019, there were almost 3,000 reported cases of gender-based violence in Mali. As Mali has attempted to resolve the internal political strain, organizations and international governments have stepped in to aid in preventing gender-based violence and raising awareness of the issue. One such organization is the JUPREC Project, with programs and initiatives dedicated to making Mali safer for women.
What is the JUPREC Project?
The JUPREC Project is an organization from Canada dedicated to eradicating gender-based violence through legal aid and awareness programs. JUPREC stands for the project of Justice, Prevention and Reconciliation for Women, Minors and Others Affected by the Crisis in Mali. In Mali, the government predicts that around 85% of all women have suffered from gender-based violence, with other predictions closer to 95%. In these cases of gender-based violence, more than 90% of attacks are committed by spouses or significant others. JUPREC’s goal is not just to end this level of violence but to get to the root cause of the issue. JUPREC wants to use the justice system to give those in need, access to resources that can get them out of dangerous and violent situations while mobilizing both the women and men in the country. While the organization’s focus is aiding the women who have been subject to violence, JUPREC also runs workshops around the country to teach men about how to be more understanding and compassionate partners to women. In doing so, JUPREC aims to eliminate violent and unjust behavior.
How JUPREC Helps
JUPREC has mobilized groups all over Mali in order to spread awareness of gender-based violence. For example, JUPREC has started a program to encourage men to change their behaviors through the use of ‘model men.’ The ‘model men’ are educated about women’s rights and the role men can play in creating a safer and more just future for those suffering from gender-based violence in Mali. The men go around the country performing plays, conducting talks and involving local communities to educate people about the benefits of gender equality and the positive impact equal relations between genders can have on a family. Other than its work with men, JUPREC also directly aids women to get out of situations in which they are trapped. One example of this is a woman called Fatou, who was married off when she was 14 and suffered from violence every day for the next three years of her life. She tried to escape the abuse she was facing but there was no way for her to obtain a divorce. Luckily for Fatou, JUPREC was able to help and aided her in getting her divorce legal proceedings started.
Despite the high reports of gender-based violence in Mali, JUPREC and partnering organizations like the Association du Sahel d’aide à la femme et à le’enfance, are committed to forming a Mali that is based on peace and equality. JUPREC has created ‘model men’ programs in almost 20 municipalities of six Malian regions. More than that, JUPREC and partners have instituted 28 peace and reconciliation committees in various regions of the country in order to create and cement the idea of conflict resolution without violence. This applies to both marital and intimate relationships as well as relationships between other citizens. The committees have played a huge role in addressing gender-based violence in Mali because many victims reported acts of violence to the committees, who then were responsible for assisting them with the next steps for protection and justice. The committees are particularly groundbreaking because at least 30% of the seats in the committees are reserved for women, in an attempt to give them a platform to be heard.
Other than the peace committees, JUPREC is supporting local Malian partners in an attempt to pass a law against gender-based violence. JUPREC and partners have been advocating for the adoption of this law since 2017, by spreading awareness of the issue and getting over 5,000 signatures in favor of passing the law. While the law hasn’t been passed yet, with continued determination and advocacy efforts, Mali’s future is hopeful.
– Lucia Kenig-Ziesler