Rights & Democracy welcomes Soyata Maïga to its Board of Directors

Soyata Maiga (source : forestpeoples.org)Montreal, March 27, 2009—Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) is pleased to welcome Soyata Maïga to her first meeting of its Board of Directors on March 26 and 27.

A native of Mali, Ms. Maïga is one of three international members on the Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy. She was appointed on October 23, 2008 for a three-year mandate.

“We are proud to welcome Ms. Maïga to Montréal. Her expertise and knowledge of many important issues will give us deeper insight into Africa and the situation of women’s rights on the continent,” stated Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy.

Soyata Maïga has an impressive human rights résumé. After graduating from the École de la magistrature de Paris in 1979, she served as a magistrate from 1980 to 1990. Two years later, she was admitted to the bar in Mali.

Currently, Ms. Maïga holds a number of positions. She is a member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa. She is also President of the Association des juristes maliennes and a member of Mali’s Commission nationale des droits de l’homme.

Ms. Maïga also received the title of “pioneer” from the Fédération des Juristes Africaines in recognition of her commitment to promoting equal gender rights and the protection of women.

Interview

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Sonyata Maïga, international member of Rights & Democracy’s Board of Directors, participated in The First International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership, Development, International Peace and Security co-chaired by Ellen Johson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and Tarja Halonen, President of Finland.

Here is her interview with Rights & Democracy:

Download the interview
(.mp3 audio file, 10 Mb)

Olivier Bourque of Rights & Democracy Speaks with Soyata Maïga, Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights in Africa


On International Women’s Day, you participated in an international conference in Liberia with many women leaders, most notably the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Could you describe the outcomes of this conference?

Soyata Maïga said she participated in the International Colloquium for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in Monrovia, Liberia, co-convened by Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President Tarja Halonen of Finland. Maïga said the Colloquium brought together 400 female leaders, including the Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, and ex-President in Africa? Has she made a difference? What policies have been put in place to benefit women?” Maïga noted the importance of Rwanda as an example for women not just in Africa but also around the world. She said Rwanda is the first country in the world to have a 53% majority of women in parliament and 48% in government.  She said the Colloquium also helped launch a plan of action for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to ensure that countries empower women to play a role in peace processes, conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction programs.

As Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights in Africa, what do you believe is the greatest challenge for women in Africa in 2009?
Maïga said of the many challenges confronting women in Africa, the greatest are poverty and illiteracy. She said illiteracy keeps women from knowing and exercising their rights. She talked about human rights training programs and campaigns, business and legal training programs, as well as efforts to translate national and international texts. She noted that all of these programs require financial resources and expertise.

You speak about financial resources. Can the international community do more to help Africa in this respect?
Maïga stressed the importance of external aid being accompanied by an internal mobilization of resources. She said it was possible to develop effective internal strategies if resources were better used and distributed. She called for increased transparency in social dialogue, civil society participation in budgeting processes, and a prioritization of issues. She urged Africans to take their destiny in hand.

You were born and raised in Mali, you have worked there and have an understanding of women’s situation there. What are the specific challenges for Malian women?
Maïga explained that since 1994, Mali, a predominantly Muslim country (90%), has been involved in a process to reform family law. The challenge is to see the adoption of a draft family code that opposes traditional discriminatory and harmful practices against women and ensures equality in marriage, inheritance, property rights and divorce. She said adoption of the code has been delayed by pressures from religious conservatives and community leaders who believe women are second-class citizens. She said Malians are working in partnership with Canadians in the struggle for legal reforms and particularly for the adoption of the draft code. She said a strong political will is required. She called for women’s rights to be preserved and translated into domestic law in conformity with the international treaties ratified by Mali.