Adama Diallo is an 18-year-old activist and UNICEF Senegal Youth Advocate who promotes girls’ rights, with a focus on ending harmful practices.
Adama advocates for positive change, “a community where no child is abused, no girl is raped, no woman dies from health complications and no assistance.” She is a young educator and the coordinator of the Kolda department girls' clubs. She is also the coordinator of the Support Project for the National Strategy for Equity and Gender Equality in her municipality and member of the global consortium to fight against female genital mutilation (FGM). In her village, Adama has become a young leader whose’ voice is listened to. People turn to her for help or solutions when there is a case of early marriage or female genital mutilation. She has convinced her own family to abandon female genital mutilation.
Adama has just finished her high school examinations, and in the future, she would like to become a doctor to help the most vulnerable people in her region, Kolda.
This World Children’s Day, we celebrate Adama’s efforts to promote a more inclusive society, where everyone is able to be their “fullest self,” with an illustration by Alex Haekel Abdurrahman. Here, Adama reflects on what inclusion means to her and how she works to promote it.
Growing up in Dabo, a very small village in southern Senegal, I used to notice certain practices that seemed unfair to my younger self. I have always wondered why some houses didn’t have access to clean water and electricity, why did some schools looked bigger and better than others, why didn’t our village have a suitable hospital like that of the city, and why did some children had to walk for hours to go to school while others lived 5 minutes away or had drivers to take them to their school safely. The list can go on and on.
I really believe that no one should ever feel excluded – no matter who they are and where they come from. We should all feel included. Inclusion for me means I am my fullest self and that’s okay. That everyone is treated as human beings, with the dignity they deserve. Inclusion is the state of belonging, of feeling fully seen and heard.
We now live in a world where who we are, where we come from, the parents we have, the school we go to, our gender, ethnicity, nationality, and our physical appearance tend to determine how others see us and the opportunities we have access to. There are thousands of people who are excluded because they live in extremely remote villages and therefore have no access to information, to basic health care, quality education, and other social services.
All these are among the reasons why I became a young activist. I am committed to working to promote girls’ education in rural areas in southern Senegal, and to fight against the harmful practices that many young girls are subjected to, like female genital mutilation and child marriage.
My way of advocating for inclusion is by supporting the most disadvantaged girls and motivating them to go and finish their education; by going to talk to their parents to convince them to not marry their daughters at an early age, and by sensitizing them on the fact that every human being – whether they are boys or girls, from a rich or poor family – should be given a chance to have access to quality education and be equipped to reach their fullest potential.
I have witnessed many situations where I felt excluded, where I had a sense of not belonging and the feeling of it is not pleasant at all. This is why I advocate for a fairer world without discrimination, and where everyone feels included. We all should belong and we all deserve to feel included.