Projet Yèrè Yiriwa

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Women are well represented in the group of delegates from each village and responsible for mobilizing the other women from their communities to participate in the democratic process.


Decentralization in Mali

Mali was among the first countries in West Africa to undertake a vast decentralization process for political power. Local governments now have a much greater responsibility to assure a sustainable economic, political and social development. In fact, rural commune governments now receive 80% of tax revenues are distributed directly to them. Evidently, their budgets have also grown tremendously even if only 20% of elected leaders are entirely literate.

Herein lies the context where Projet Yèrè Yiriwa, of the Mali Folkecenter, looks to act as a catalyst for sustainable development from the ground up. Each village must identify 10 revenue-generating activities and then prioritize them. Sectors, consisting of 4 to 5 villages, will then go through the same process.

Shifting thoughts

In order for each village to be fairly represented, 5 delegates are assigned for the Projet Yèrè Yiriwa group consultations: the elected leader, the men’s “animateur”, the women’s “animatrice”, a youth representative as well as a women’s representative. The “animateur” and “animatrice” have both received training by the Yèrè Yiriwa coordinators on techniques to mobilize their community and are very much local champions of the project. After the group consultation, they will return to their communities and relay the messages and lessons learned from the Yèrè Yiriwa team.

It was at these consultations that the Yèrè Yiriwa team explained, for example, the benefits that their paying income taxes can bring. Since becoming a democracy in 1992, I am told that Malians – mainly in rural areas – expect the economic and social benefits to automatically come to them. They have been unable to see the link between income tax revenue and new roads or hospitals, to the point where they complain about a lack of essential services from the State. Projet Yèrè Yiriwa therefore looks to establish a clear link in order to show each and every person how their voice can be heard as well as how they can contribute to this development.

Youth are also encouraged to stay in their respective villages instead of moving to urban centres like Bamako. The prioritization of revenue-generating activities aims to show them the bright horizon for the development of their village and how they can play an important part in it.

Rural Challenges

After having attended 3 group consultations in the villages of Kodiougou, Sôrôna and Garalo, it is apparent that many challenges lie ahead, the biggest one being proximity. Many of these villages are isolated by 10 or 20 km from each other and the roads are in terrible condition. Therefore, it becomes very difficult for the delegates to find transportation or fuel for the trip. In fact, the first consultation I attended was delayed for more than 3 hours because we had to wait for every village to be represented. It was fascinating for a time-is-money-Westerner to observe the infinite patience of the people, even if they were sacrificing an entire day of harvesting their fields or tending to their daily chores. Patience is definitely an abundant commodity in Mali.

It is thanks to the people’s firm belief in Projet Yèrè Yiriwa that the horizon shines a bit brighter than before. You can even see it in their faces when members of the Yèrè Yiriwa team, like Monsieur Ibrahim Togola (a consultant for the MFC), speak of concrete power and personal value that each person detains as players on this field of democracy. One can almost feel the earth tremble from people getting up to make their voices heard as they take momentous steps forward.

If you’re interested in discovering more about Projet Yèrè Yiriwa and the Mali Folkecenter, just click!


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