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Politics | Gender - Women
Canadian Governor speaks for Mali women
afrol News, 24 November - The Canadian Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, yesterday left majority of Mali's parliamentarians shaken after she has delivered a lengthy speech in favour of the country's women.
After the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, Jean became the second foreign head of state to address the Malian parliament.
Her speech which started with Mandela's words: "I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom," easily caught the attention of Malian deputies.
"Even while in prison, even while in chains, Nelson Mandela never stopped being a free man, free of any desire to oppress another human being. In just a few words, this great dreamer has captured the very essence of any democracy," she said.
But the mood of most Malian deputies changed as soon as the Canadian leader touched on the equal rights for women, which is still a complex issue that the country's government is afraid of addressing the issue.
She asked Mali to be committed to ensuring that equality is accorded to women in all spheres of life as well as elevate them to key decision making positions. "The voice of women counts. Give women the means to participate fully in city life and you will see a drop in illiteracy, poverty, hunger."
Jean questioned good governance in the absence of equality between men and women and asked why Mali is dragging its feet to implement its developed family code that guarantees the rights of women. She argued that a society cannot be built on exclusion.
Malian women have been longing for a legislation that would among others give them the right to own property, seek divorce as well as enjoy equal share of inheritance with their brothers.
The country's respective governments fear to discuss the issue in a society where the lives of people are dictated by religion and culture. And for fear of the backlash from pro-religion and culture groups, the government is yet to bring the bill before parliamentarians.
The mere mention of the family code added cold among the male-dominated MPs who appeared as if they had no interest in the speech. However, the few female deputies applauded the Canadian leader.
Turning to Mali-Canada relations, Jean promise to continue to "reaffirm our desire to stand beside you in a spirit of solidarity and co-operation, through acts of fellowship that reinforce and enrich our relations."
According to her, the motive of coming to Mali was clear - to listen to people whose roots run deep, an industrious and disciplined people, a people rich in the cultures of some twenty different ethnicities that have shaped the history of Africa and continue to make an invaluable contribution to the heritage of humanity.
"And never before have I heard the story of Africa told so poignantly than in the film Bamako, by filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, presented and acclaimed just a few weeks ago in Canada, at the Toronto Film Festival. It is here that the rich, courageous and diverse voice of the Malian people can be heard loud and clear."
She said Mali and Canada have a lot of things in common - tolerance, peacekeeping, respect for the rights and freedoms of people and democracy.
Canadian leader also applauded Mali for being in the vanguard of democratic development and the promotion of human rights fifteen years after a military coup that ousted the former dictator, Moussa Traore from power.
She said the country still has many serious challenges to tackle. "Canada will continue to help you in the areas of education, health, and agriculture and in your efforts to put an end to corruption."
By staff writer
© afrol News
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