YOUNG AND COMMITTED TO GIRLS WELL-BEING IN MALI.
"I'm proud that I was able to save a child from excision" Salimata Camara, young child right advocate in Kati
In April 2023, 50 young girls and boys from southern Mali were trained by UNICEF in advocacy techniques. During the training, the young people learned about the root causes of child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation, and how to advocate effectively to put an end to these harmful practices.
Among these young advocates for girls' rights, Salimata Camara, 24, comes from Kati in the Koulikoro region. During the training, she immediately chose the issue of Female Genital Mutilation, having herself been excised in her early childhood. She also experienced its harmful consequences. After her marriage at the age of 18, she had complications during childbirth. She underwent an episiotomy that caused severe hemorrhage. Salimata was hospitalized for 2 months after giving birth.
"For a long time, I wondered how I could help other girls who had health problems after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation, including urinary incontinence. I wanted to comfort them and help them by putting them in touch with doctors, whom I succeeded in rallying to this cause," recounts Salimata.
"This training on advocacy techniques is a very good idea. It allows me to improve the way I talk about my commitment against Female Genital Mutilation to my community. When we came back from this training, we trained other young people and we are more effective together," she continues.
Train a young to impact a community
Salimata and her group developed and implemented an action plan as recommended during the training. They have carried out awareness-raising activities with the local population and advocacy activities with the Kati authorities. The community's imam has committed to working alongside young people as a model husband in the fight to abandon female genital mutilation.
On October 11, 2023, during a major advocacy event, the administrative, political, religious and customary authorities of Kati signed a commitment, showing their support for the young advocates.
"I'm proud of the impact we had in Kati. I'm also delighted that, thanks to this training and my own story, a young mother in my community refused to have her 3-year-old daughter excised", says Salimata.
The young mother in question is called Barkissa. After learning about the consequences of excision, she opposed her family's request to have her 3-year-old daughter mutilated. She was rejected by her husband and family because of this. Thanks to the mediation of the community imam, who is also a model husband, she will soon be reunited with her family.
The "Yiriwa Tonon" project: Empowerment and protection of adolescent girls through gender-transformative advocacy approaches convinced 90 community leaders, religious leaders and administrative authorities to rally behind the young people's advocacy by signing commitments to promote the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage.
In addition, more than 17,000 girls have benefited from prevention and care interventions to combat child marriage, as part of UNICEF-supported programs.
The actions carried out by the young people have reached over 800 parents, who in turn continue to take the advocacy messages to the remotest corners of the regions, to ensure that every girl has the right to a childhood free from forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.
*Surname has been changed for protection measures