Rose Diakite is a passionate defender of women’s and persons with disabilities’ rights. She is the Vice President of the Malian Federation of Persons with Disabilities Associations (FEMAPH) and was sponsored by GMAP to travel to Switzerland this month and take part in the 64th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) under an UNMAS funded project.
GMAP and the GICHD hosted a Maison de la Paix Gender and Diversity Hub event where Rose spoke about the conditions of Malian women with disabilities in conflict and post-conflict contexts. Amelie Chayer of the ICBL spoke to the international frameworks that support victims of explosive remnants of war, and Ms Hatouma Gakou Djikine (FEMAPH’s President) and the Ambassador of Mali’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, Ms. Aya Thiam-Diallo spoke about the barriers that disabled people face especially in a less developed country like Mali and in an on-going conflict.
An active agent of change towards the social inclusion of disabled people, and especially disabled women, Rose is the Malian representative for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and has taken the lead to ensure visibility of women with disabilities in the CEDAW Review.
According to Rose, Malian disabled women are often invisible in society. They face double discrimination, due to their gender and their disabilities, in their daily activities and social relations. Poverty, illiteracy, high unemployment, high probability of gender-based violence, psychological issues and stigma damage these women.
Mali ratified the CRPD in 2008, however national policies and frameworks to protect disabled persons, and especially disabled women are lacking in Mali. Therefore, it is crucial to fight for the rights of disabled women, especially for access to governmental social programming. The creation of public policies and laws to end violence and discrimination towards these women are also necessary measures.
Agency, dignity and freedom of choice can radically change the life of a disabled woman, as explained by Rose – ‘’if others choose for you, you do not have control over your own existence.’’ Social programs need to make it possible for disabled women to be autonomous, for example by helping them to develop skills and earn an income. Only by being empowered can, women withdisabilities overcome the challenges that they face from society, escape violence, abuse, and poverty, and have the opportunity for a better future.
Rose spoke to the importance of mine action organisations that support persons with disabilities in conflict situations, like GMAP, the ICBL, UNMAS and Handicap International. These organisations help advocate for the rights of disabled persons and women especially, implement gender-sensitive programming, and improve women’s participation and decision-making opportunities in the mine action sector.
The overall message is clear: the voices of women with disabilities need to be heard. Women with disabilities in Mali will continue to be in danger if measures to empower them are not put in place. The Government of Mali must take steps to create and implement effective national laws and programmes so that all persons with disabilities – especially women and girls – can enjoy a dignified future without discrimination.