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In Mali, Tuareg filmmaker turns lens on women

BAMAKO (AFP) – Fati Walet Mohamed Issa, a young documentary filmmaker from Mali’s volatile north, says her goal is to shine a light on the plight of women in the conflict-torn Sahel state.

“Women are often either taken out of school to get married, or they are not allowed to go to school,” the 24-year-old, wearing a tunic and a veil, told AFP.

Mali is a conservative Muslim-majority nation of 21 million people, where swathes of the country are in the hands of extremists, and pressure for women to conform to traditional gender roles is strong. But Issa is uncowed. She has recently finished shooting a 10-minute film in a Tuareg encampment in Timbuktu.

It and other pieces made by women have now had a screening in the historic city – a rarity indeed for female filmmakers in the remote northern region. The documentary is entitled Tamadjrezt – ‘Regret’ in the Tamasheq language of Issa’s Tuareg ethnic group.

“I want to talk about them, about us,” she said, referring to women.

In 2012, Tuareg separatists launched a rebellion in Mali’s desert north, which spiralled after it was commandeered by extremists.

Fighters have since spread to central Mali as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and two million people have been displaced by the Sahel-wide conflict, of which Mali remains the epicentre.

Issa explained that she shot her film alone, because “technical teams were afraid to come”.

Her documentary follows a 15-year-old girl named Fatma, whose family fled to neighbouring Mauritania because of the conflict but then returned home.

Fatma attended a school built of straw, which didn’t survive the torrential downpours of Mali’s rainy season.

Despite her wishes, her father refused to allow to continue her schooling elsewhere.

“For us, women and girls have to take care of the home,” Fatma told the camera.

Fati Walet Mohamed Issa at her home in Bamako. PHOTO: AFP

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