Profile: Hortense Bla Me
Hortense Bla Me has spoken out strongly for the up-and-coming generation in her country and for younger children around the world. She is President of the Children's Parliament (Parlement des Enfants) in Côte d'Ivoire. Her keen desire to promote children's concerns and protect young people's rights has extended beyond her African homeland through her active involvement with UNICEF.
Hortense has travelled to the United States to participate in UNICEF activities and workshops. She has also taken on the role of interviewer on a UNICEF video that illustrates the problems girls and boys in Côte d'Ivoire face as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This video has been broadcast on national television in her country and used by schools and NGOs to sensitize youth about AIDS. An advocate for peer education, she believes, "Anyone can be infected by AIDS. No one chooses it We must give them moral and financial support."
Hortense was 13 years old when she joined the Children's Parliament in 1992. (The Parliament, made up of 100 Ivorian boys and girls, was created in 1992 to promote children's rights after the 1990 World Summit for Children.) Hortense became Treasurer, and in 1997, she was appointed its first Vice-President.
The following year, Hortense became the first girl to be elected President of the Children's Parliament. Her work in the Parliament led to deep involvement with UNICEF, and she has worked closely on issues supported by UNICEF, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, especially for adolescent girls, education for girls and improving conditions for street children.
At present, Hortense is studying biology at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Abidjan. Although she will give up her presidency in 2001, she intends to pursue a lifelong commitment to promoting the rights of children. When it comes to youth, she says, "We should not give them the power to make decisions, but we should give them the chance to be heard."