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The last five years: Mali’s journey to protect the rights of people with disabilities

Daouda Kone, October 2021
Five people, including the President of the Association des People of Small Size and the President of the Malian Union of the Blind, smile at the camera.
An advocacy meeting at the National Transitional Council, including the president of the Association des People of Small Size and the president of the Malian Union of the Blind.

On 1 September 2021, the prime minister of Mali signed a new social decree and passed it into law that protects the rights of people with disabilities. Years in the making, here’s the story of how the law came to be.

Together with our partners, we celebrated as Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga signed the decree of implementation related to the Law of Social Protection and passed it into law. This law promises improvements to the lives of people with disabilities and will make it possible for people to claim their rights and gain greater access to employment, education and social benefits.

Our support and the tireless work of our partners and organisations of people with disabilities has now come to fruition after years of campaigning. The signing is a success story that builds on years of advocacy and growing momentum in Mali. But how did we get to this historic moment?

How did we get here?

2017: The first glimmer of hope

In 2017, Mali became the sixth country in Africa to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This ratification created the first glimmer of hope for people with disabilities to gain respect for their fundamental rights.

2018: The law is adopted and the campaign begins

In June, the social protection law was unanimously adopted by the National Assembly of Mali. This led the Malian Federation of People with Disabilities (FEMAPH) and its partners (including Sightsavers) to launch the campaign to implement the decree. In French-speaking countries, a law cannot be passed unless it is translated into a decree of implementation.

2019: Equal World helps the campaign to progress

Following the launch of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, our team in Mali continued their tireless advocacy work. Civil society organisations, including Sightsavers, met with the State of Mali to draft a decree that was submitted to the government for signing.

The Equal World campaign also helped FEMAPH in its advocacy. We financed activities such as an awareness-raising session for managers at the key ministries. We also collected signatures for the petition and released a number of press releases to promote the campaign in the media. As a result, the decree quickly moved from one stage to another.

2020: Work continues among political instability

Unfortunately, the August 2020 coup d’état halted the momentum for the signing of the decree. Following this political instability, which put an end to the current regime, a transitional government was set up and one of its key bodies was the National Transitional Council. This council includes three disabled people, including the president of FEMAPH, the president of the Malian Union of the Blind and the president of the Association of People of Small Size.

The setting up of this council was an opportunity for the organisations promoting and defending the rights of people with disabilities to speed up the process of signing the decree.

2021: The momentum increases

In March, a team from the Disability, Vulnerability and Development Thematic Group of the Forum of International NGOs in Mali, led by Sightsavers’ Mali country office, met with certain members of the National Transitional Council to advocate for the acceleration of the process of signing the decree.

In May, the ratification of the African Disability Protocol by Mali showed the country’s commitment to respect the human rights of people with disabilities. On 15 August, the president of FEMAPH addressed the Malian parliament and called for the social decree to be signed into law. The prime minister gave a positive answer, and the decree was signed two weeks later!

What does the future hold?

Now that the decree has been signed into law, the rights of people with disabilities in Mali are protected. It means that all sectors of society must take people with disabilities into consideration and will be challenged if they do not. Some areas that will see remarkable change include:

Employment

People with disabilities will now have greater access to employment. This includes better opportunities to get a public sector job as a quota is being introduced so that candidates with disabilities can apply on an equal basis. These candidates will now be able to apply based solely on their skills and qualifications.

Education

Children with disabilities will now have more access to education. An inclusive education policy will be implemented so that children with disabilities can continue their education as schools will need to adapt to teach their students with disabilities. For many years, children with hearing impairments have not been able to continue their studies past middle school (11 to 13 years). This is a denial of human rights, and these children are unable to attend high school or university and progress into a professional career.

Urban planning

Urban planners will now need to ensure that people with disabilities can access public buildings and factor this into their construction plans.

Health

Disability cards have been introduced and people with disabilities will be increasingly prioritised in access to health care.

A step in the right direction…

This new decree is a step in the right direction to ensure that no one in Mali is left behind. The 2.2 million people with disabilities in Mali will now have legal protection to help claim their full rights and experience full equality.

The decree is not only a triumph of the hard work by campaigners and advocates, but also represents their determination and commitment to the effort through times of political instability. Together they have worked with the government, which has listened to their voices, to secure the rights of people with disabilities.

A young girl smiles as she stands in a classroom.

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Our Equal World campaign fights for the rights of people with disabilities to go to school, find a job and take part fully in society.

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Author


Daouda Kone is the programme officer for health at Sightsavers, based in Mali.

 

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