Claiming Our Rights: Surviving Pregnancy and Childbirth in Mali

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The right to survive pregnancy and childbirth is grounded in women’s right to life, the most fundamental of human rights guarantees. This right remains unrealized in Mali, where pregnancy and childbirth take the lives of thousands of women every year. Contributing to these deaths are everyday denials of the rights to health care, non-discrimination, and reproductive self-determination.

Pregnancy-related deaths—most of which are preventable—cut short young lives, render thousands of children motherless, and take away the wives, daughters, sisters, and friends of countless others. Yet maternal mortality, though acknowledged as a tragedy, is widely accepted as an unavoidable risk for women in Mali, a condition of womanhood.

This report approaches maternal mortality as a deprivation of basic human rights. It considers the manner in which laws, policies and pervasive social norms contribute to maternal mortality in Mali and calls for concerted, urgent action on the part of the government and the international community to ensure women’s safety on their journeys through pregnancy and childbirth.