Mali

In 2013, Access to Health began working in the Douentza region of Northern Mopti Municipality to support community-based health initiatives. Through partnership with the Near East Foundation in Mali (NEF), the local Douentza Community Health Center (CSCOM), local health advocates, and other regional stakeholders, ATH implemented three projects in 2014, all focused on a core issue identified by the Douentza community health board: female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

  • Performed in the local dialect and using Malian musical traditions by the Douentza-based Troupe de Haire, a health album was produced which covers acute health issues in the region, including FGM/C, and has been aired regularly by Radio Daande Douentza. ATH worked with entertainment law firm Loeb & Loeb to draft a contract formalizing this commissioned album on health and human rights topics relevant to the Mopti region.
  • In response to the popularity of the album, ATH also supported Troupe de Haire to develop and perform a short play on the health risks of FGM/C; the Troupe took a mobile approach and performed in five different regional communities, reaching over 1,000 people.
  • On the premise that education must be paired with programmatic work, ATH also supported a local anti-excision advocate to implement a sustainable alternative livelihoods project, identifying active excisers in the region and supporting them to find alternatives through small grants, livelihood training, education on the harms of FGM/C, and regular monitoring.

In 2015, ATH initiated a quantitative survey on the impacts of the album. The survey results were presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development in September 2017. The survey showed a positive trend in understanding the health impacts of FGM/C, and more willingness from those interviewed to consider not making the cut. This survey not only investigated the efficacy of the project, but is also one of the few data-based analyses of radio education. The album continues to air regularly on Douentza’s local radio station.

In late 2015, the first nine former excisers from the alternative livelihoods project graduated to their new livelihoods in animal husbandry and petty trade. Distinct from similar attempts to divert excisers, an esteemed member of the Mopti community and part of the NEF team checks in on the excisers regularly and is well connected to the community. Her mentorship and oversight have ensured no recidivism thus far, and in early 2016, the program expanded to include five new excisers.

In response to feedback from partners, ATH coordinated a one-day forum for anti-excision advocates from across Mali to come together to discuss best practices in March 2016. A number of positive connections and ideas came out of the conference, including the need for a centralized internet forum to share updates on organizational activities as well as increasing demand for a short film targeting rural Malian audiences which explains the risks of FGM/C in detail. The forum also reviewed a local drive to pass a law criminalizing FGM/C and discussed strategies to promote such legislation. ATH now supports an internet forum since this time, with various anti-FGM/C organizations in Mali providing assistance.

Resources

To Curb FGM, Our Project Focuses on the Cutters
In Mali, Grocer Wages War on FGM from his Closet
A Day in Mali – The Northwestern Access to Health Project
Back to Mali: A Country Suffers From the Single Story of Danger