MALI - Creating safe spaces to meet amidst COVID-19

A text by Sophie Bourdon


The Local Education Community for Healthy Women and Girls (CLEFS) project, a collaboration with the Cégep de St-Jérôme and the University of Sherbrooke thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada, launched in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic this March 2020. An important first step of the project needed to be adjusted: meeting safely with the communities.

For our team currently in Mali, the challenge was steep: to organize consultations in 5 regions of the country (Bamako, Kayes, Koulikoro, Ségou, Sikasso) so that communities are heard and that their priorities are an integral part of the planning of activities, while maintaining high health standards. A prevention protocol has been developed to protect both partners and staff. Several adaptation measures have proven to be assets that will continue to be put in place beyond the context of the pandemic. For example, one to one meetings or very small group reunions are practices that promote a deeper understanding of local issues and facilitate the creation of a bond of trust.

At this time, over 100 women and men leaders have already shared their visions for improving primary health care and sexual and reproductive rights. It is just the beginning !