Image credit:Bogolan is a traditional fabric from Mali. Bogolan means "made with earth" and is a dyeing technique that originated in Mali in the 12th century. Credit: Leonova Elena / Shutterstock.com
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage both constitute acts of gender-based violence and negatively affect the rights and development of girls. In Mali this is of great relevance: it is estimated that 89% of women aged 15 to 49 are cut and 53% of women are married before they turn 18 years old.
This study presents the key research findings to quantitatively assess social norms related to FGM/C and child marriage in five intervention zones in Mali: Bamako, Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso and Ségou. The aim of the research is to better understand if and how social norms may be driving the persistence of these two harmful practices, and to offer preliminary data points from which potential shifts in norms can be measured.
Expectations of immediate family members and elders matter most: Across the five regions, the two groups whose expectations mattered most to respondents were immediate family and elders, cited by at least 90% of respondents overall. Much greater support for continuing FGM/C than child marriage: More than two-thirds of respondents expressed support for continuing FGM/C compared to 44% supporting continuing child marriage. This may be linked to a greater awareness of the negative effects of child marriage compared to FGM/C, the former being more likely to be regarded as a violation of human rights and/or a form of violence against girls. Majority believe that most girls under five have undergone FGM/C: Some 82% believed that the majority (i.e. more than half) of girls under five in their community had undergone FGM/C – and 24% believed that all girls under five had been cut. Nearly two-thirds expect child marriage rates to be lower in five years: Encouragingly, the majority of people (60%) felt that those in their community are now less supportive of child marriage compared to a year ago, while 65% estimated that child marriage rates would be lower still five years from now. Social sanctions appear especially important for norm compliance with FGM/C: Nearly two-thirds of respondents believed they would face sanctions for abandoning the practice. Loss of tradition and reputational damage to the girl and to her family were the most likely sanctions. Faith leaders, community and elders associated with pressure to comply: Close to 90% thought that their religious leaders expected them to continue FGM/C, with corresponding figures for the community and elders being 86% and 84% respectively. For child marriage, 65% thought the community expected them to continue the practice, while 64% mentioned elders. In both instances, the strongest perceived expectations for respondents to continue the practice came from the reference groups furthest removed from them, according to the socio-ecological model. Strong preference for community-led change to end practices: When asked whose responsibility it should be to stop these practices, respondents consistently felt this lay with everyone in their community (80%), and particularly with community leaders (59%). This suggests that respondents wish people with knowledge and appreciation of local customs and traditions to be the ones engaged in ending harmful practices – and underlines the importance of locally designed, owned and led solutions.
A quantitative analysis of social norms relating to FGM/C and child marriage in Mali
This quantitative analysis was developed by ODI in partnership with Plan International Mali and with financial support from the Spotlight Initiative through UNICEF Mali.