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A 14-year-old girl in Sierra Leone is taking on all-comers in her struggle to better the lives of her country's children.

 

'We go to street children and we go out to centres that help girls that have been raped. We ask them how they feel and they tell us - so we go back to our network and sit as a group and make plans on what should be done, present them and take them to the leaders and make sure that there is something being done.'

Aminata’s country, Sierra Leone, suffered nine years of civil war. Between 1991 – 2000 tens of thousands died and more than two million people (well over one-third of the population) were displaced. In 2003 nine-year-old Aminata, at the urging of friends, joined the Children's Forum Network. (CFN). She did so under the impression it was a drama group.

Instead The Network turned out to be a campaigning group, a place for children to meet and talk about their concerns. Aminata had bad memories of the war to share. ‘I remember houses being burnt,’ she has said. ‘’Having to get out from the house and go to a neighbouring house. Having nowhere to stay, no clothes to wear. I lost my aunt whom I loved so much and I lost my uncle.’

The Children’s Network believes the best people to articulate children's concerns are the children themselves. And by the time she was eleven Aminata had become an active campaigner.

She is particularly passionate about the needs of girls in Sierra Leone. ‘Girls need to be educated,’ she says, ‘If a couple have two children, a boy and a girl, they will prefer the boy go to school. That’s because they think when the boy goes to school he will continue the family name. But if a girl goes to school it's a waste of money, because when that girl gets married she'll take her husband's family name.’  She also says, ‘‘If a child has the right to go to school, he or she will be responsible to study and get good grades and eventually do something good for the community. These are the future leaders of the world.’

According to Aminata, funding from First World countries won’t achieve anything unless there are strict controls and follow-ups. It’s the only way to prevent aid money being unscrupulously siphoned off. ‘I'm not afraid to say it,’ she declares. ‘Our leaders embezzle money a lot. Corruption is the order of the day. If you send money they will take it for their personal use.’

Now fourteen, Aminata has an impressive campaigning record. As well as working with the CFN – for whom she is Public Relations Officer – she has taken part in international summit meetings, lobbied government leaders, campaigned on several important social and public health issues.

She also has her own radio show. In  2005, she participated in the first-ever Children’s C8 Forum. This was organized by UNICEF and held in Dunblane, a few miles from Gleneagles where the G8 was taking place. On the same visit she met Gordon Brown and the then Prime minister, Tony Blair.

Watch Aminata's video

 

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