The response to immediate humanitarian needs must be combined with a vision and commitment to implementing sustainable solutions. – M. Coulibaly, Oxfam Director in Mali
She Is Safe works to empower women and girls in sustainable ways. In places like Timbuktu, war, economic erosion and environmental degradation affect women and girls more than any other demographic, yet these same girls hold the potential to create powerful social and economic change.
Timbuktu has been a cultural center since the middle ages. It was known to traders as the “Jewel of the Desert.” Since 2012, however, Timbuktu and the rest of northern Mali have been beset with lack of rain, lean harvest, and a violent internal conflict with Islamic militants.
Through French intervention, the militants were pushed out of Mali in late 2013. However, the bloodshed was great and nearly every family was touched by death or displacement. In addition to the human toll, the conflict effectually destroyed all semblances of a modern infrastructure. Roads, buildings, and the power grid were all severely damaged.
Though organized militant forces have been disassembled, fringe groups continue to cause security issues outside of developed areas. This has kept Malian herders from accessing traditional water points due to the possibility of militant attacks.
Though the remnants of the conflict continue to erode the culture and economy in northern Mali, food security is a growing concern and experts believe that unless action is taken, Mali will experience a food crisis by the end of 2014. The lack of rain in the past two years has led to a reduced harvest of cereal grains, a key part of the Malian diet. As a result, the lean time between harvests is growing. An analysis by Solidarites International concluded that this lack of food in the time between harvests will lead to increased debt and migration in northern Mali, further stressing local communities.
The UN made an emergency appeal for food aid in 2013 which was only 55% funded. This disappointing level of funding was exacerbated by the lack of other aid groups in Mali, nearly all of which ceased operations at the beginning of the conflict. The need for immediate aid is apparent, however, sustainable living is necessary to prevent this cycle from continuing. Oxfam Director in Mali, Mohamed Coulibaly, claims, “The response to immediate humanitarian needs must be combined with a vision and commitment to implementing sustainable solutions.”
A key part of sustainable solutions is the empowerment of women and girls. Economic malaise always affects this demographic stronger than it does young men. However, empowered women and girls effect powerful social and economic change. According to the World Bank, closing the joblessness gap between women and men can increase a developing nation’s GDP by 1.2% each year.
Before the conflict, She is Safe was active in Mali, training women in sewing and literacy at the Timbuktu Women’s Center. Though the Women’s Center was destroyed by Islamists in 2012, She Is Safe stayed active in supporting the Christian community. The Women’s Center was rebuilt in 2013. While She Is Safe works to find the needed resources, the ministry has been forced to reduce the scope of the training and the number of women that can be served.
If you would like to help meet this critical need, you can visit She Is Safe’s Mali page, read, pray and donate: http://sheissafe.org/work/mali/
The aftershock of the conflict, the lack of infrastructure, and the growing food crisis mean the stakes are higher in Mali than ever before.