Spotlight on ADAP Mali
In southern Mali, the problem of child labor is closely linked with both the economic instability of families and the lack of access to relevant education. When parents migrate for work, children are often left with relatives who may not have the time or interest to care for them closely. When schools are too far from home, parents often will not send their children, particularly their daughters. When poverty dominates family life, all members of a family – even the youngest – may need to work.

Near Mali's border with Burkina Faso, where the local Association pour le Développement Actif et Participatif (ADAP) is implementing a CIRCLE project, child labor and child trafficking are closely linked as well. One of ADAP's key innovations has been to work closely with the local police, including those who monitor Mali's international borders, to combat child labor. As ADAP works to raise awareness about child labor and education among parents, children, and community members in the Koutiala region, they are involving law enforcement agents wherever possible.

Some of ADAP's awareness-raising activities, for example, have served to make the public and police aware of new Malian legislation that says children must have their own travel documents in order to leave or enter Mali. The process of checking for legitimate documentation on child travelers allows police to ask more questions and raises a useful red flag in cases where children do not have the right papers, since they are often the victims of child trafficking – one of the worst forms of child labor. ADAP's mobilization of local law enforcement agents has already yielded several success stories.

After attending an ADAP workshop on child labor, the police identified an 11-year old girl, at the bus station in Koutiala, who had been mistreated at home and was running away – the perfect prey for traffickers. The girl had been living with her grandparents since her mother and father migrated for work. The police brought the girl to ADAP, where staff took charge of the child, intervened with her family, and put together the papers to enroll her in school.

At ADAP's transit center for vulnerable children, staff and local police are now partnering on several cases each month. In one case an 8 year-old epileptic girl, who has never been to school, was undergoing medical treatments but being made to do hard domestic work in her doctor's household. Eventually she ran away and community members brought her to the police, who contacted ADAP. The project animators and police together took the child to a health center, then back to her parents. In the presence of the police inspector, the girl's father promised to send her to school.
In another case, police who had attended an ADAP workshop intercepted three Burkinabe children at the frontier of Koury. The children rested for 48-hours at ADAP's transit center, and project staff then turned them over to an ILO/IPEC funded local NGO that accompanies children across borders: the children, who had lost track of their marabou (coranic teacher) at the Mali-Burkina frontier, were accompanied safely back to Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina.

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The dialogue between ADAP and the local police is just that:
an ongoing exchange and relationship that continues to expand in new directions.
ADAP and CIRCLE are demonstrating that when civil society and public service work together, children benefit.