Ascofaré Ouleymatou Tamboura


August 20, 2010

Ascofaré Ouleymatou Tamboura

Member of Parliament for Ténenkou Cercle, President of the Women’s Caucus of the National Assembly of Mali

“To my sisters and my daughters who want to embark on politics, I have only one piece of advice: you have to believe!” - Ascofaré Ouleymatou Tamboura

iKNOW Politics: To start, can you tell us what challenges you had to overcome as a woman in positions of political leadership? How did your past and your experience help? 

Thank you for granting me this interview. I arrived on the political scene in 1997, when the COPP (Convention for Progress and the People) was established. I was the Secretary General from 1997 to 2002, and I’m proud to have managed to establish the party everywhere in Mali. Generally speaking, the women who manage to reach positions of responsibility fall victim to prejudices that oblige them to work twice as hard to prove their technical competence and to assert themselves as “women”. This experience has served me well in everyday life, and in particular in the exercise of my duties as a member of parliament. I will answer your second question with this point. 

iKNOW Politics: Can you tell our readers how you help promote protection for the rights of Ténenkou’s women and in public life? 

I was elected in Ténenkou and am currently serving my second term in office, but I am first and foremost a member of parliament for all Malians: “any imperative mandate is null and void”. That being said, the women of Ténenkou, like all women in Mali, are confronted by: the low school enrolment rate, poverty, disease (HIV/AIDS, poorly guaranteed reproductive health), attacks on physical integrity, under-representation in administrative and political decision-making bodies. As a legislator, I can act to remedy those problems by initiating and/or adopting legislative measures in favour of women. In addition, I ensure that existing texts protecting women’s rights are properly enforced through government oversight. Certain coercive measures, such as quotas, can enable women to play a role in public life and foster the genuine change in behaviour needed for our country’s harmonious development. 

iKNOW Politics: On the basis of that experience, what do you think women in high positions in Mali should do to promote women and safeguard their rights?

 Such women do not have the right to make mistakes. Each of them must see herself as being on a mission in the cause of women, in other words show that she can do as well if not better than a man. They cannot be spared comparison at this level. They will always serve as models for the ascent of other women.

iKNOW Politics: What, in your view, are the main obstacles facing women who enter politics? How did you overcome them? 

The main obstacles are socio-cultural in nature. To overcome them, you have to start by daring. Then you have to organize so as to be able to cope with the other internal (family) and external obligations. It’s a huge challenge, and your husband has to be your chief ally!

 iKNOW Politics: What are you specifically doing to help and encourage women and girls to participate in political life?

I use tangible examples a lot, mine first of all, which speaks louder than any other. Also through associative life, I try to influence harmful common practices by launching activities to raise awareness and bolster women’s capacities. This is why I created an association that works to raise the number of girls enrolled in school in my constituency and to promote good reproductive health practices.

 iKNOW Politics: How did the support of other women help you in your activities? How can political party women’s groups and women’s committees contribute to making women more effective in politics?

Women are my chief allies in my constituency; I take advantage of the opportunity you give me to pay tribute to them. They are a driving force in political parties. They are very efficient but their abundant supply of energy is not always put to good use.

 iKNOW Politics: How do you think an initiative like iKNOW Politics can be used to encourage women’s progress in politics?

 iKNOW Politics is a wonderful initiative, allow me to congratulate its promoters. Women leaders can use it to enhance exchanges, share experiences, and start common activities. But this cannot be done without first strengthening women’s capacity to use computer tools. Just as there is a digital gap between North and South, so there is a huge gap between men and women in the use of computer aids, and that gap has to be bridged. iKNOW Politics also has to diversify its working methods. In addition to on-line contacts, your structure must be present in the field and in direct physical contact with women.

 iKNOW Politics: What advice would you give iKNOW Politics members, in particular women and girls who want to become involved in politics?

 In Mali, when someone says they want to be involved in politics (politiguimogo in bamanan our local language), there is always a negative connotation. All misguided thinking on this point must first be dispelled. Getting involved in politics simply means helping to solve problems in your village, your town or your country - in that sense everyone is a “politician”. Politics is not the exclusive domain of men. It’s true that the way our society is organized tends somehow to exclude women from politics by relegating them to a back seat. Customs are hard to change but there is hope. As attitudes change, with the various government policies and civil society organizations promoting women, success may be around the corner. The advent of democracy in Mali in March 1991 marked a turning point in women’s awareness of their capacity to organize and have an impact on the course of events. I think that advance is irreversible and permanent. To my sisters and my daughters who want to embark on politics, I have only one piece of advice: you have to believe!