M. Bali: The Candle Spreading Light

Date: October 9, 2019
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Bali joined the Ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare as Coordinator of the Women’s Unit in 1991. At that time, the Women’s Unit was primarily implementing programmes through its network of four Women Centres and about 500 Women Associations affiliated to the National Women’s Council. She has been part of journey where she witnessed major changes in the Mauritian society through the policies and projects implemented by the Ministry. In a patriarchal society, structural barriers will continue to hinder women’s social, economic and political empowerment and this calls for a continuous and systematic participatory interventions which are in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5 of achieving Gender Equality and empowering ALL women and girls.

She has been deeply involved in the projects and decision-making process aiming to build an equal society since the very beginning and was nominated as Chairperson of the National Women’s Council in August 2018.

Using a “Women in Development” approach, programmes and training courses offered by the Ministry initially sought to empowerment women at the social level. Recreational and leisure activities were also a core component of these programmes in getting women out of their restricted domestic sphere. M. Bali recalls helping out in the organisation of a “National Sports Day” in 1991, a first for the Mauritian women and for the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare. Following the successful holding of this event, the Ministry of Youth and Sports decided to set up a “Commission Nationale du Sports Feminin”.

Important milestone throughout her career include the participation of a Mauritian delegation in the Fourth World Conference in Beijing in September 1995, the drafting instructions to the Protection from Domestic Violence Bill and the amendment brought to the Constitution of Mauritius particularly to Section 16 (c) in 1995, which added sex to the grounds on which discrimination by laws or public authorities would be prohibited.

Bali sees the Beijing Conference as a turning point for changing gears for the re-orientation of the Ministry’s interventions regarding “Gender Equality and Women’ Empowerment” (GEWE) and as an event which encouraged her to pursue her dream of achieving gender equality. The Conference triggered the adoption of the paradigm shift from a “Women in Development” to a “Gender Development Approach”.

She has also provided a helping hand when the Ministry participated in various international and regional fora, organised by United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat, Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association and Indian Ocean Commission. This presence in these international platforms has been instrumental in bringing about changes for GEWE.

In 2015, she engaged with the IORA Secretariat to advocate for Mauritius to chair a Working Group for Women’s Economic Empowerment. The Working Group was officially launched during an IORA Ministerial Conference held in August 2018. The endorsement of a Work Plan on Women’s Economic Empowerment to be implemented by the IORA Member States also emanated from the process.

Throughout her long career working at the Ministry, she helped in driving major changes, such as the enactment of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act in 1997, the setting up of the Family Welfare and Protection Unit in 2003, the recent establishment of Gender Cells mechanisms and the setting up of the National Steering Committee on Gender Mainstreaming. The list is non-exhaustive

Bali seeks to expand her scope of intervention and reach to more people by working with the private sector, the academia, the Media, Civil Society Organisation and by engaging with the Youth as Game Changers for GEWE in secondary schools.

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