The National Assembly of Mali is currently making a seeming frantic effort to implement the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality. To this end, the Assembly and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) organised a workshop on improving women’s representation in parliament from February 27-28, 2019 in Bamako.

The workshop aimed to support the Parliament in monitoring the government’s commitments to gender equality; encourage more women to enter politics; work with political parties to encourage women to stand for political office by, for example, giving women access to financing; and raise awareness about the importance of women’s representation among parliamentarians, the media, and the general public.

Malian women, who make up more than half the population, have been under-represented in decision-making posts. Their political participation is often hindered by poverty and illiteracy.

But, as part of the country’s commitment to implementing the SDGs, the Malian government and Parliament have put in place measures for women’s empowerment to improve maternal and child health, get more girls into education, combat violence against women and increase women’s representation in parliament.

In 2015, a law was passed to help increase the number of women MPs, which resulted in an increase from 9 per cent in 2009 to nearly 27 per cent in 2016. This is being taken further by a law on gender parity, which will come into effect at the next elections. The law states that no list will be accepted if it includes over 70 per cent of one gender.

The workshop follows on from earlier workshops co-organised by the IPU and the Malian National Assembly on gender equality and SDGs in 2017, and a self-assessment on its readiness to implement the SDGs in 2018.

The logic is that Parliaments are instrumental in ensuring the implementation of the SDGs and therefore, should be closely involved in the process. It was in this context that a self-assessment exercise on SDGs was carried out by the Legislative arm of the Malian government, using the IPU-UNDP toolkit, Parliaments and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mali is the first African country to undertake this exercise.

The self-assessment was organised by the IPU and took place in Bamako, last January 24-25. Participants included members of the Committee on SDGs of the National Assembly, the presidents and rapporteurs of parliamentary commissions and groups, women and young MPs, a questor, parliamentary staff, and representatives of the government and civil society.

The exercise helped the Parliament identify priorities for short- and medium-term operational strategies for the implementation of the SDGs. MPs defined actions and concrete goals in the areas of legislation, budget, oversight and representation.

Recommendations included creating a communications strategy for the Parliament on SDGs, allocating a budget for their implementation, appointing a focal point for SDGs and carrying out capacity-building for relevant staff.

Other recommendations included the need to involve civil society and parliamentary staff in training on SDGs, requiring the government to provide an annual report on SDG implementation during the budget review, assessing the impact of draft legislation on SDGs and dedicating a day to the most vulnerable during each parliamentary session.