Information on APDF

APDF is short for “Association for the progress and defence of women’s rights”, in French « association pour le progrès et la défense des droits des femmes «. The association was founded and registered in April 1991, right at the beginning of democratisation in Mali. Ms. Fatoumata Siré Diakité, a well known feminist today all over Mali, is the founder of APDF. APDF is the largest national women’s NGO working on the issue of women and girls in Mali. It has observer and consultative status with the United Nations and with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The association is represented all over the country at grassroots and national level.

Since 1994, APDF has been running a legal Counselling and Orientation Centre for women/girls who are victims of violence. It is at the front line concerning the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

APDF’s objectives are:

  • Promote, protect and defend women’s rights
  • Fight all kinds of violence against women/girls
  • Combat all forms of discrimination against women
  • Fight outdated and harmful traditional practices done to women/girls, especially FGM
  • Inform, train and educate women about their rights
  • Encourage women to become aware of their role and place in society and to take part in the socio economic development process of the country
  • Fight for an effective integration and representation of women on the decision making level (political, economical, social)
  • Valorise the role of Malian women and their economic contribution in the household and for the country
  • Support women’s micro business with small scale credits
  • Monitor the government’s correct application of laws and legal texts favouring the equality of men and women. Monitor the government’s application of international engagements concerning women’s/girls rights.

The APDF areas of activity can be classified in:
Training and education
Information and sensitisation
Lobbying and advocacy
Micro finance
Legal advice and assistance

Details on the work of the Legal Assistant The legal assistant at APDF is more than a formal lawyer. She is a legal and psycho social adviser as well as an advocate for women’s and girls’ rights. In the counselling centre she listens to women’s problems and gives legal advice and counselling. She also works with opposing parties to try and reach reconciliation and gives judicial and jurisdictional assistance to women and girls in distress.

The cases treated by the legal assistant concern domestic violence, more precisely assault and battery, as well as rape and early or forced marriage.

Many women complain about the non payment of maintenance cost. According to Malian family law, the husband needs to pay maintenance to ensure that the wife can prepare meals for the family and can dress herself. In reality, due to poverty and non respect of his duty, a husband can default on the payment.

Others are looking for the recognition of fatherhood for their natural born children. Cases of repudiation or abandon are also frequent. There are a significant number of files of probate dispute to the disadvantage of the woman/wife or her children.
Sequestration and child abduction are also known.
At times, cases of discrimination at the workplace or layoffs are treated.

There are detailed statistics about the number and types of cases treated since 1994. They are in part available on www.apdf.org.ml (in french)

One important principle in the how the APDF counselling centre works is that reconciliation attempts are made with the opposing parties. In a concrete case, this would mean that the opposing party of our client - the husband, father, family member, employer etc. - is invited by letter to come to APDF. An exchange about the complaint takes place with the legal assistant, and in many cases reconciliation or an amicable arrangement can be reached with both the parties involved.

In cases where reconciliation fails or is not possible, APDF takes over the cost of the lawyer and the juridical process; which is an important factor in making sure that women in distress have access to justice. Besides ignorance of their rights, it is mostly poverty that keeps them from opening a procedure.

The legal assistant monitors the files of victims of violence together with the associated lawyers.