Creating change for Mali’s most vulnerable children
Protecting children and women from violence, abuse, and exploitation requires a comprehensive child protection system that addresses the full spectrum of risks they face.
Children and young people in Mali, and especially girls, continue to bear the brunt of the country’s complex and protracted crisis, risking their lives, losing their homes, being abducted and recruited by armed groups, separated from families, and exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.
At 73% of girls aged 0 to 14 affected, Mali has one of the highest female genital mutilation (FGM) rates worldwide. FGM carries serious health consequences and increases the likelihood of dying during childbirth. At the same time, more than half of girls are married or in a union, while 16% of women get married before the age of 15. Being married robs a girl of her childhood and increases the likelihood of early pregnancy and school dropout.
Too many children in Mali, especially those in conflict-affected areas, still do not benefit from their first fundamental right: the right to an identity. 16% of children in rural areas are not registered at birth. The official recording of a child's birth establishes the existence of the child under law and provides the foundation for safeguarding many of the child's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
UNICEF supports the Government of Mali’s efforts to create an environment that protects the rights of children by strengthening legal and policy frameworks and national institutions, implementing prevention mechanisms at community level, and by expanding the response to detect, prevent, respond to and address all child protection issues affecting children in Mali, including harmful practices, violence against children, exploitation, migration, and the specific protection needs of children in both development and humanitarian contexts.
To reach the children most in need of protection, UNICEF works closely with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children and Family at both national and decentralized levels, the National Office of Civil Status as well as partners including UNFPA, UN Women, IOM, UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, civil society and other technical and financial partners.
As many children in Mali still do not benefit from the right to an identity, UNICEF works to strengthen links between health services and civil registration services to ensure that all babies born in Mali are officially registered within the legal deadlines and receive birth certificates.
Ending violence against children
At community level, the focus of UNICEF’s work is to strengthen communities and families’ resilience so that they can, as frontline responders, prevent, detect, refer and manage identified cases of violence and harmful practices that affect children and refer to welfare services if needed.
UNICEF also works in strengthening response services, including welfare and justice services, case management, alternative care, family support services, and psychosocial support.
Child protection in emergencies
In emergency and conflict situations, UNICEF and our partners in Mali provide direct support to child victims of violence, abuse and exploitation, including for children associated with armed groups and children survivors of gender-based violence. Services including medical, food, psychosocial, and education support for the most vulnerable children in conflict-affected zones. In 2019, UNICEF and partners provided psychosocial support to more than 116,000 vulnerable children – more than half of whom were girls.
Find out more about the protection of conflict-affected children in Mali.
With a focus on the rights and wellbeing of the vulnerable girls, UNICEF works to better understand, and address, social norms related to Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, and gender-based violence.
UNICEF also takes part in the Spotlight Initiative, a global partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.