There are about six and a half million children living in Mali,
in fact 38.3% of the
entire population of the country is aged 14 yrs or younger and
most live in poverty, with Mali being one of the poorest countries in the world.
As such 700,000 children under the age of 15yrs are
economically active such is the widespread poverty,
particularly in the sand strewn north of the
As such, life is already tough for Mali's children,
but its even tougher for the estimated 75000 children in Mali who have been
orphaned by AIDS with many of these children heading towards city
areas such as the capital Bamako in order to find ways to
There are some 4300 of these
children in Bamako alone, although the figure is probably much
higher. These children have very limited life opportunities, are out
of school, have no access to health care nor are ever likely
to enter the official job market. In turn they are at risk of
sexual exploitation and trafficking ~ its a simple fact that if
a child is taken from the streets and trafficked no-one apart
from their fellow street kids would ever know, or even care.
Around 15,000 children in Mali, many of them street children, are
trafficked every few years to the Ivory Coast
where they work on cotton and cocoa plantations whilst girls are
similarly trafficked there mainly for domestic servitude.
Other children end up on the streets in Mali because they have
been sent to harsh Koranic schools mainly at the insistence of
their fathers who not only want them schooled in Islamic
tradition but also because of poverty and an inability to
provide for their children. Part of this 'schooling' is to beg on the
streets, an activity that is seen as an integral part of their
religious education. These children are known as 'manya' and
when they return to their school they hand over their spoils to
the Koranic masters and those who don't return with sufficient
rewards are beaten and otherwise punished.
The authorities in Mali are aware of this
activity but do little or nothing to address it preferring to
turn a blind eye. This harsh treatment causes many children to
run away, and, unable to return home to face further beatings,
they end up not just begging on the streets, but living on them.
In fact around 30% of street children in Mali state they are
street children following abuse by their Koranic masters.
all these street children it is estimated that around 19% are
aged under 13yrs old with the majority (46%) aged 13-16yrs, the
remainder are 16yrs and over, although of course, once they
reach 18yrs they are no longer classified as children, but they
remain on the streets nonetheless.