Resolution 1325 and the Need to Empower Malian Women

Senator Mobina Jaffer
August 21, 2013

Since the beginning of January 2012, an insurgent group has been fighting with the Mali government for the independence of northern Mali, an area known as Azawad. This group, formally known as National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and also referred to as Tuareg nationalists, joined forces with Islamist rebels.  By using their combined forces, they gained control of northern Mali in the spring 2012. Consequently, Toureg nationalists have gained independence of Azawad. However, due to conflicting visions with the Islamist rebels, Tuareg nationalists renounced their claim and left the rebels to rule over northern Mali.

In December 2012, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2085, which stresses the need to refine military planning and describes the steps to be taken before an international military intervention in Mali. However, the rebel capture of Konna on 10 January prompted a proactive military intervention by France. At the beginning of the military intervention, France was also supported by African countries. United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium and Canada provided transport and cargo planes, and America focused on communications support.

Currently, French forces are reported to be engaged in heavy fighting in northern Mali. Thus far the intervention has cost France around $133 million. For its part, UN is appealing for $373 million in foreign aid. However, more than just a contribution of financial aid needs to be done in order to deal specifically with the impact that this conflict has on Malian women.

In January 2013, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the situation of human rights in Mali, which covers the period from 17 January to 20 November of 2012. Although it discusses many different human rights violations, it stresses that women in particular have suffered due to an extreme interpretation of Sharia law by the Islamist rebels. The report cites cases of harassment, abuses and sexual violence due to accusations of being improperly veiled or dressed, or for riding a motorbike.

Throughout my career, I have had many opportunities to work in countries that have been plagued by violence and conflict. I have always been a strong advocate for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325. I have had many opportunities to witness firsthand the ability it has to change the lives of women. My experience has taught me that the impact of Resolution 1325 and its practical applications on women in conflict zones still depends largely on the willingness of commitment of dedicated individuals and Malian women have demonstrated a strong desire to participate in the decision-making processes. However, the president of the Malian Women’s Rights and Citizenship group Nana Sissako Traore states that “women are being left out of the process.”

Sadly, this is not surprising. Of the 14 peace negotiations co-led by the UN in 2011, only four had delegations that included a woman. In November 2012 however, the (now former) UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet noted at the Open Debate of Security Council on Women and Peace and Security that “in spite of their absence from official conflict resolution processes, [Malian] women leaders in the North are using informal channels to call on the leaders of armed groups to participate in peace dialogues.”

Using Resolution 1325, Malian women must demand from their government “equal participation and full involvement” and “increased representation of women at all decision making levels.” When programs for post-conflict reconstruction are created, women can ask for an equal number of women and men in these programs. There is still a significant need for a greater amount of women in decision-making roles in Mali.

Furthermore, Resolution 1325 goes on to recognize “the urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations.” If Mali were to have a large female peacekeeping force, it may encourage the local Malian women to participate in the national armed forces. This would transform the way national armed forces interact with victimized women and ensure that the forces are part of the solution, rather than the problem. Moreover, women and children are more comfortable with reporting the abuse to women in peacekeeping missions, which means UN would have a continuous grasp of the actual situation on the ground.

Using Resolution 1325 and recognizing its potential as a powerful force for good can have tremendous positive effects for women and children living in Mali. Not only will this empower the women of Mali and give them a voice in their communities, it will also help usher in peace to a country that has been plagued by war.


PN Member Senator Mobina Jaffer represents the province of British Columbia in the Senate of Canada, where she chairs the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. Appointed to the Senate on June 13, 2001, she is the first Muslim senator, the first African-born senator, and the first senator of South Asian descent. Senator Jaffer also sits as a member of the Senate’s Anti-terrorism and Legal and Constitutional Affairs committees.


Photo by jrcohen.

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