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Children speak out on behalf of their peers

© UNICEF/MLIA2011/Rokia Guindo
Youth journalist Rokia Guindo captures a boy sleeping in a local market, his shoes around his hands to kept them safe from theft.

Vulnerable children and young people in Mali use photography to promote their rights

Bamako, June 16, 2011: The Day of the African Child, celebrated every 16 June, is shining a spotlight on children who live and work on the street, an issue affecting many children in Africa and the world. In Mali’s capital city of Bamako alone, an estimated 5,500 children are left to fend for themselves on the streets.

Boys 10-18 years old make up the vast majority of this group, however girls are not spared. Many have found themselves on the street after fleeing violence and abuse at home or in their Koranic school. Eighty six percent of the children working on the streets in Bamako are from Mali; the rest come from other countries in the sub-region including Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea. Their livelihood? Begging, for the vast majority. But some small "street businesses" also exist with kids who work shining shoes, washing windows, carrying bags and selling wholesale goods. The girls often sell fruits and vegetables, however roadside prostitution is often a means of survival.

To protect children against violence, exploitation and abuse, communities, religious and traditional leaders, policy makers and civil society must be mobilized. The Mali-UNICEF programme advocates the adoption of legislation, policies and budgets that favour the rights of the child, including birth registration, supporting access to health care end education, and ensuring that poor families know about and can access the services they need to protect and care for their children.

© UNICEF/MLIA2011/Souaré
An adolescent girl sells water by the side of the road for small change.

“Jekuwuli”: to rise up together

To commemorate The Day of the African Child this year, a photography exhibition was produced by ten girls and ten boys between age 10 and 18 — participants in a photography and journalism training program being held in Bamako through the end of the year. The program, "Jekuwuli", which loosely translates from Bambara “to raise up together”, began in April with the Centre for the Promotion of Training Photography (CFP), the Association of Children and Young Workers (AEJT) in partnership with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV-Mali), and SONY.

The initiative aims to develop the skills of children and marginalized youth to express themselves clearly, to promote their own rights and freedoms and to build social equality through tools of visual communication and storytelling. It is part of a broader program aimed at strengthening AEJT.

The workshop participants were selected by associations working with and for vulnerable children. In addition to AEJT, youth photographers were selected from the National Children's Parliament (PNE), the Association for the Promotion of Children and Young Communicators (APEJC), Community Counseling Centers (CEC) and child protection organizations Samu Social, Kanuya and Sigiya-ton.

The aim of the exhibition, to be held at the Palace of Culture in Bamako under the high patronage of His Excellency Mr. Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), President of the Republic of Mali, is to see from the perspective of children the challenges facing children living and working on the streets. Following the opening on June 16th, the exhibition will remain on view at the CFP in Hippodrome.

For more about this initiative and UNICEF’s work in Mali, please visit:



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