Mali remains one of the last remaining African countries without national legislation banning FGM. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 girls and women in Mali have undergone FGM 

Mali is situated between several countries that have progressive domestic laws protecting women and girls from the practice, including Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Burkina Faso. This geographical positioning, combined with a  lack of legal framework banning FGM, has led to an influx of practitioners traveling from neighbouring countries into Mali resulting in crossborder  FGM practices, to avoid avoiding prosecution within their own countries.

Within Mali, the highest occurrence of FGM occurs in the south. In this region and among the Bambara, Sonike, Koulikoro, Peul, Dogon, and Senoufo ethnic groups, the rates range between 95%-99%. In contrast, the lowest rates of FGM are in the northern region of Mali. Specifically, the practice is almost non-existent among the Muslim Songhai, Tuareg, and Moor populations in Gao and Timbuktu.

Historically, FGM has most commonly been practiced on girls between 14-15 years old as a means of preparing them for marriage. While this remains true in Kayes, Dogon, and Senoufo, where girls between 13-14 years old are pulled out of school and undergo FGM as rite of passage and preparation for marriage, there has been a shift and decrease in the average age of this practice. Currently, 89% of girls who undergo FGM are under 5 years old. This can be attributed to several different factors, including the belief that wounds heal more quickly at an earlier age and the ability to conceal the practice among young girls. This has led to infants as young as 20 days old being subjected to FGM.

The cultural and societal beliefs that perpetuate the practice of FGM, include:

  • The Malian society considers an individual, both male and female, to be a child until they are circumcised.
  • FGM practitioners have an economic incentive to continue the practice. During one study in 1990, researchers found that practitioners typically earn between US $2-$5 per procedure performed, a notable amount for the extremely low annual per capita income.
  • 64% of girls and women believe that FGM is a religious requirement. 

Political and legal context

  • In 1997 the Malian Government committed to eradicating FGM.
  • In 1999 the Ministry of Health issued a government directive prohibiting public health facilities from performing FGM. However, despite this commitment and the creation of a two-phased plan and a National Steering Committee to oversee implementation of the plan, domestic laws have yet to be created that fulfil this commitment.
  • While it is imperative that Mali complies with its international obligations and works to develop legislation that explicitly bans FGM practices, the use of current domestic laws in the interim that protect women and girls should not be undermined. 
  • Malian Penal Code can be used to protect women and girls from the practice
  • In 2011 the Malian Government recognised FGM as a public health problem. Civil society and financial partners  continue to work closely with  the Government of Mali  towards ensuring FGM abandonment
  • The National Program for the Fight Against the Practice of Excision (PNLE) is a national programme within the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and the Family. This programme includes representatives of government ministries, public institutions, NGOs. It is responsible for the coordination of all actions to end FGM; designs nationwide action plans; monitors and evaluates grassroots activities and supports the development of training curricula for health professionals. While the PNLE coordinates all FGM activities, the Ministry of Health is responsible for treatment of medical consequences of FGM.

Key actors:

NGOs have been working to eradicate FGM in Mali since the 1960s. Many continue to advocate for a law banning FGM and petitions are raised and taken to parliament regularly. A broad range of interventions and strategies have been used by different types of organisations including:

  • Health risk/ harmful traditional practice approach
  • Addressing the health complications of FGM
  • Educating traditional practitioners and offering alternative income
  • Religious oriented approach
  • Rights approach/ ‘Community conversations’/ Intergenerational approach
  • Conducting youth awareness and education to encourage them to oppose FGM
  • Media influence
  • Working with men and boys

Our work in Mali aims to:

The Girl Generation is set to being programme implementation activities in 2017. The main areas of focus will include:

  • Galvanising action to grown an Africa-led movement to end of FGM.
  • Working directly with the Mali government and key partners to drive social change communication as one of the approaches to end FGM.
  • Building capacity of our members and partners to leverage social change communication in their activities and initiatives.
  • Advocating and mobilising resources to facilitate and end FGM in Mali.