Social justice is more important than ever, says Islamic Relief’s Tandio Traore, weighing up the importance of our life-changing work in Mali this Ramadan.

Tandio Traore works for Islamic Relief in Mali.

The month of Ramadan is a month of blessings and forgiveness. It is a time of communion and mutual aid that brings faithful Muslims closer to one another. Usually, I break my fast with my family using millet porridge seasoned with curd and hibiscus and ginger juices. After breaking the fast, we make our collective prayers in front of our compound under the guidance of the imam.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic is making Ramadan in Mali very different. It is a Ramadan of challenges due to social distancing measures, the intense heat and the poverty of the country. Usually we would come together with our families, but this year that is forbidden out of concern for public health. It is a month of hesitation and above all, uncertainty, due to the closing of borders and the lack of economic resources – but it is also a period of reflection.

Social justice matters

This holy month, I find myself thinking a great deal about social justice – adl is one of Islamic Relief’s core values – and why it matters so much.

To me social justice means equity, access to basic needs, and respect for fundamental human rights. It is important because it helps establish gender equity, so women and girls can achieve their God-given potential. It is also a requirement in any society if people want to live together without social boundaries or marginalisation.

An Islamic Relief community session raising awareness of gender-based violence in Mali.

Islamic Relief first applies social justice through its dealings with staff, with no discrimination on the basis of race, gender or religion or anything else. The charity is also striving for social justice through its interventions serving vulnerable people here in Mali: from development projects, supporting orphaned children and their families, and, of course, through the food parcels we distribute during Ramadan.

Our awareness-raising activities within communities, in particular, drive social justice as they support vulnerable people to play fuller roles in communities which were once hostile to them. We are breaking down barriers and tackling marginalisation, helping the determined, resilient people we serve to open new doors to the future.

A boy in Ouelessebougou, Mali, collects his family’s Ramadan food parcel.

Supporting people to live in dignity

I remember one woman, who lost her husband and was rejected – along with her 9 children – by her family in-law. Islamic Relief began sponsoring one of her sons, so the family could afford decent housing and for the children to go to school. Coupled with our frequent counselling sessions, that brave woman is now living in a dignified way with her children.

Islamic Relief’s fight for social justice is important because as a trusted organisation in the country and within communities, we can influence real, positive change. By helping change the mindsets of communities, we are tackling injustice and improving the lives of those who are oppressed.

For me, it is satisfying to be part of this change. During Ramadan for instance, our food distributions help maintain social cohesion within our target communities by involving them in identifying the families most in need. I feel good to be part of the Islamic Relief family, especially at Ramadan – I feel I am helping humanity and have an important purpose in life.

We are servants in the name of Allah through the beautiful initiative of Islamic Relief.

I extend my warmest wishes to all Muslims around the world. Let us be united in our faith in Allah. I pray Allah to reward the donors who are spending their wealth to relieve the hardship faced by vulnerable people. May Allah (SWT) reward them with the highest place in Jannah.

This year, let’s show our brothers and sisters that We Are One. Donate to our Ramadan appeal today.