Friday 26 November 2021

On the occasion of the 32nd edition of the World Children s’ day, we give the floor to Yacouba Sylla, a social worker from the Association Jeunesse et Développment du Mali (AJDM), our local partner.

The Association Jeunesse et Développement du Mali (AJDM)

Since 1995, the Association Jeunesse et Développement du Mali (AJDM), has been working in the field of vulnerable youth protection in diverse regions of the country. AJDM’s actions are focused on but are not limited to family planification, literacy, screening and medical treatment of STI diseases for vulnerable children and families, migrant and homeless girls, as well as girls with unwanted pregnancies.

For several years, the Fondation Apprentis d'Auteuil International and AJDM have developed a project with the main objective of protecting young Malian or migrant mothers and their children while offering them a decent professional training to ensure their reintegration into society.

Today, Yacouba Sylla tells us about his work, which consists of helping young and isolated migrants in West Africa to return to their country of origin.

The Interview:

For four years, I have been supervising a reception center for migrants welcoming a quarter of young minors, many of them being unaccompanied minors (UAMs) who wish to return to their native country. They are entrusted to our association by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), dependant on the United Nations and based in Gao. My mission is to assist them materially and support them in their administrative procedures in order to allow them to go back home.

Who are these nonaccompanied minors?

They are children aged 13 to 18 years old, born in very poor families originating from Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia and sometimes from Sierra Leone, Liberia or even Cameroon. All of them had a difficult childhood, without formal education or who left school prematurely. In the end, deprived of any future prospect, they embody the role of the “resource person” of their family which eventually leads them to leave their country for Europe, hoping to find a job and provide for their relatives’ needs.

However, their journey is cut short…

Indeed, on the roads of migration, these youngsters face all kinds of violence and abuses. Crossing the desert to reach the Maghreb, with the uncertain objective of reaching the other bank of the Mediterranean Sea, is an ordeal few of them are prepared to go through.

Finally, short of money, exhausted and sometimes ill, they give up and accept, once taken care of by the IOM (International Organization for Migration), to go back on their way.

How do you work towards the defense of their fundamental rights?

At the AJDM, we welcome young people in transit, waiting for their administrative documents, which takes between one week and two months. If we cannot properly implement their fundamental rights, within our structure, we ensure that they can all have access to what every child should be able to claim: a shelter, enough food and access to health care.

What does the World Children’s day mean to you ?

For me, it is a space that allows young people and every person who support them to speak to the world. A space to recall that, no matter where she or he comes from, no matter what the personal story is, every child has inalienable rights. Respecting these rights means helping the future adult in these children to grow up. Because the future is to be built today.

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