With the detection of Covid-19 in Mali, most women’s profitable activities have been halted, adding to their poverty and family issues. Whether it’s the formal sector’s female entrepreneurs or those operating on their own in the informal economy to sustain themselves, Covid has put many of them in severe economic crisis, often without any kind of support from the state.
Many Malians believe only males suffered from coronavirus in Mali; supported by the explanation that men pay for all family expenditures. But, this is not true. Like males, the women were also equally affected. Many have lost their jobs. Many women saw their business activities plummet. Many affected women started working as laborers in the informal economy to make a living.
Oumou Keita, who is a teacher, also has to trade, based in Kita. During the vacations, she would shop in China and Dubai. All stopped with Covid-19. Travel was not possible. Beyond dread of the illness, she deplores the entire freeze on activities and lack of support for resuming trade.
Absétou Touré, a food vendor in Bamako, said: “My career began in 1999. I got my family corn and rice, but no cash aid. Covid-19 was a bust, therefore I suffered. So, I couldn’t do anything.” Clearly, the woman says she went into debt to resume her family’s business.
Fatoumata Doumbia oversees “Dabanani” market in Bamako. The woman and her mother provide tomatoes to Bamakois. “Mom and I leave Bamako to purchase tomatoes. Due to the curfew under Covid till 9 PM, we spent several nights outside Bamako with our belongings “she said. She has lost a lot of money owing to the coronavirus.
For Kébé Tantou Sambake, Vice-President of the Women of the Malian Businesses, women entrepreneurs face several problems during Covid-19. They visit other continents. “But Covid made it impossible and so women who wanted to go abroad couldn’t. Those who traveled to Bamako to get supplies were likewise unable to do so”. The official clarified and said: “We were really affected by it. We’ve slowed down. We have made an effort to raise the Covid awareness of the women employees, at the employer’s level. We educated them about pandemic, the use of gels, masks, and vaccinations. We have video conferences with WAEMU and ECOWAS but can’t give them money. Our budget was low “says the VP.
Touré Rachida Ousmane, who is a leader of Afled, says they have seen the same consequences. “Covid made women unable to work. All street sellers and women businesses have experienced challenges “.
According to her, “Covid has escalated gender-based violence since many of them said their husbands were brutalizing them.” Ms. Touré says Afled has funded 40 women so they may resume their work. Also, digital awareness initiatives for women are undertaken.
In Bamako, Moussa Guindo is head of the Association for the Protection of Domestic Workers. Because of coronavirus, he laments the end of domestic assistant work. “The housekeepers’ supervisors had trouble paying them. These villagers have trouble going to Bamako, Mali’s capital, for employment”. They had trouble transferring money to villagers. Others lost employment, Guindo said.
Coulibaly Raihanatou Wagué is a processor in the food industry. It sells farimougou, mango, fonio, Djouka, Kaba Mougou, Ségou Dèguè, MoniKourou, and Laro. “I’d recently done well in Gabon, Guinea, and France when Covid blocked the borders. So I couldn’t keep my promises. I had plenty of merchandise and my company folded ” And then: “I was ignored. To restart my job, I needed financing.”
Response of the state?
The issue is whether the state has done its job 100% or not? In Article 24 of the Maputo Protocol, states shall “protect impoverished women, women heads of the home, and women from peripheral populations and offer them a framework tailored to their physical, economic, and social requirements.” Article 17 of the Malian constitution promotes “labor and social protection.”
An official from the regional directorate for the promotion of Women, Children, and the Family in Bamako said loans were offered to women, along with awareness-raising initiatives and identification of impacted women. This speaker, whose identity we won’t reveal, confesses that women have been trained in saponification, agriculture, hairdressing, tattooing, fish farming, above-ground market gardening, and more.