BAMAKO, Mali, 13 October 2010 – As the remains of a dreary, water-logged afternoon drew to a close last month, a large crowd congregated at the National Museum of Mali for a decidedly sunny purpose: to celebrate musician Habib Koité and his inauguration as the first-ever National Ambassador for UNICEF in Mali.
|VIDEO: Watch a public service announcement featuring newly appointed UNICEF Mali Ambassador Habib Koité. Watch in RealPlayer|
The internationally renowned musician has achieved many distinctions, including knighthood in the Order of Arts and Letters of France and the National Order of Mali, and an Ambassadorship to the Festivals in the Desert and the Niger. But for a man so devoted to the advancement of children’s rights, the position of UNICEF Ambassador is a special one.
Commitment to children
“Habib Koité is distinguished by his undisputed commitment, his interest and his generosity in the promotion of children's rights, including the promotion of handwashing with soap as a simple gesture to save lives," said UNICEF Representative in Mali Marcel Rudasingwa during Mr. Koité’s inauguration.
|© UNICEF Mali/2010/Good|
|UNICEF Mali Ambassador Habib Koité.|
Amidst a group of government officials, artists and other UN Ambassadors – as well as Mr. Koité’s extended family, friends and many fans – Mali’s Minister of the Promotion of Women, Child and Family Affairs, Maiga Sina Damba, praised the new UNICEF Ambassador dedication to protecting children.
Ms. Damba went on to invite Mr. Koité to collaborate with her department, and other stakeholders and partners, on the key issues surrounding the protection of children’s rights. These include: the development of a national policy and framework for cooperation on child protection, as well as the establishment of a child-protection database and an effort to end traditional practices that are harmful to the health of girls and women.
Joining the UNICEF family
UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano welcomed Mr. Koité to his new role.
|© UNICEF Mali/2010/Good|
|UNICEF Regional Director Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano has inaugurated musician Habib Koité, shown here with children in Bamako, as the first UNICEF Mali Ambassador.|
"Like all our ambassadors, Habib was chosen because of his commitment to humanitarian causes and to children. We are very pleased he has joined the larger UNICEF family,” said Dr. Rotigliano.
“UNICEF believes it is important to focus our efforts on the poorest people in order to reduce inequalities and build a better world for children,” he continued, adding that he hoped Mr. Koité would “continue to win the hearts of the Malian people for the cause of children in general, and vulnerable populations in particular.
Source of inspiration
Addressing the audience, Mr. Koité said that his goal as UNICEF Mali Ambassador was to be a source of inspiration for the nation's children.
“I will serve as an example, and I will strive for continued improvement of their status,” he said. “I will be the messenger of their cause to the authorities and public opinion so that the behaviour changes needed are adopted."
Born from a long line of traditional singers, or griots, Mr. Koité distinguishes himself as a rare breed of artist, committed equally to his craft and the advocacy of child rights worldwide.