Since the launch of the Every Last Child campaign, Malian Youth Associations have been building the momentum towards lasting change. The latest feather in their cap was their meeting with Mrs Aminata Maïga Keita, the First Lady of Mali on 7 July 2016 lead by the Children's Parliament of Mali.
The meeting aimed to thank the First Lady for her sponsorship of the campaign in Mali, to showcase their ambitious plans to see change for the children of Mali and ensure that Mrs Keïta will provide her support in future advocacy and mobilisation actions. During the meeting, children and youths raised their concerns about health, education, protection and the areas that will be addressed by the campaign during the next three years.
In a technical note delivered to the First Lady, they put forth a list of recommendations including the personal involvement of the First Lady in the implementation of the campaign, the mobilization of authorities, partners and particularly her support to meet the President and Head of State Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to make him an ambassador for the most excluded children of Mali, particularly the girls.
Mali has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. While the country has made great progress, child marriage still remains a huge concern. 59% of girls are married before they turn 18 - the legal age of marriage in Mali is 15 for girls and 21 for boys. 15% of girls are married before their 15th birthday.
Mali’s high rate of child marriage owes to a number of factors including high levels of poverty, low levels of literacy and education especially among women and girls, chronic youth unemployment, humanitarian issues such as droughts and food shortages. Ethnic conflict and political instability, particularly in the northern rural regions of the country have exacerbated these issues and further entrenched the practice of child marriage.
In Mali, we are campaigning for the effectiveness of the Universal Health Coverage, free healthcare, access to Early Childhood Development Centers, access to school and retention of girls, fighting against early marriage and female genital mutilations.
By the end of the meeting, Ms. Keïta renewed her commitment in favour of children before making recommendations for a better implementation of the campaign. She would like to see better involvement of local children’s organizations and communities in the implementation strategy of the our campaign.
In Mali, we are now committed to ensure that children and youths are treated as agents of change and key stakeholders in the community and ensure that they are given a bigger platform to put forth their ideas and voice their opinions.