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Strengthening ties with India

2015-10-24 23.17.42The last week in October was probably the most important, hectic week so far in our diplomatic career. During this time, India held its 3rd Africa India summit and hosted about 54 African nations in an effort to boost ties between the continent of Africa and India. In the biggest event since 1983, 42 African presidents attended this grand summit .

We had a unique opportunity to host the President of Mali, H.E. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the First Lady of Mali, H.E. Madame KEITA Aminata Maiga, a delegation of six Malian ministers and 15+ government staff. What a nail biting yet amazing experience!!

BF8W5409 FirstladyofMali

ForeignMinister of MaliBF8W5574 BF8W5809 BF8W6014 BF8W6128 BF8W6149 BF8W6155 BF8W6159 BF8W6164 BF8W6359 IMG_1740 IMG_2265 IMG_2301 IMG_0011_1_11_Mali IMG_0011_2_11_Mali IMG_0011_3_11_Mali IMG_0011_4_11_Mali 2015-10-31 18.21.24 2015-10-29 15.16.10

During the weeklong event, Mali had an opportunity to share with India the many ways that we can grow a mutually beneficial relationship with India. The Foreign Minister H.E Abdoulaye DIOP extended his gratitude for the military support provided by India while encouraging India to further strengthen its cooperation  in the area of ​​peace, security and the fight against terrorism. The Indian PM Narendra Modi announced a 10 billion USD line of credit, aid amounting to 600 million USD over the next 5 years which includes a India-Africa Development Fund of 100 million U.S. dollars and an India-Africa Health Fund of 10 million U.S. dollars and 50000 scholarships for African students over the next 5 years.

In his address, our President, His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita first paid tribute to the longstanding friendship and cooperation between India and Africa that were strengthened by leaders like Gandhi, Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nkrumah, Modibo Keita, Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta.

He denounced terrorism and violent extremism, which according to him, is now one of the most serious threats to peace and security and noted that the fight against these evils must be at the center of the joint action of the Partnership. He stressed the potential of both parties and called for a strengthening of the strategic partnership for economic and social development of India and African countries.

He also took the opportunity to express its deep gratitude and that of the people and Government of Mali to all countries friendly to the multifaceted and ongoing support to Mali.

During his meeting with the Prime Minister of India, H.E President Keita expressed his gratitude to India for providing Mali with soldiers to protect the North of Mali. Our President also expressed interest in growing Indian investment opportunities in the fields of agriculture and technology in Mali. PM Modi  further invited President Keita back for a separate bilateral visit to India.

President Keita also took an opportunity to meet with the Malian student leaders from Bangalore. He expressed his support for them and his joy in meeting them.

During this time, I also had an opportunity to spend some time with the First Lady of Mali. I continue to be amazed at her genteel and down to earth nature. During the spouses program, we had an amazing opportunity to visit the beautiful Akshardham temple. During her time at the temple, she joined other African First Ladies in offering  prayers for world peace and harmony by offering ‘abhishek’, the ceremonial pouring of sanctified water from 151 holy rivers, lakes and ponds across India on the sacred image of Sri Neelkanth Varni. About the visit, the First Lady said: The visit was really educative. It is a place of peace, humanity and wisdom. Simply magnificent and a beautiful monument. May we keep inspiring from the past values to make our life more beautiful. Well done to Indian people for their ingenuity work.”

The last night, our delegation was received by a big Indian delegation that introduced us to the mystery of Bollywood and the true Indian culture. The night was filled with great music and good Indian food. This experience left quite a indelible unforgettable mark among all our delegation.

This summit was monumental in terms of the endless possibilities to grow Mali and India’s friendship. Yeah and I gained a fresh perspective on how we can move Mali forward in our role. We learned so much more about diplomacy and had a chance to experience it truly at work. What an unforgettable, mind blowing experience all round!

 

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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Past Posts

 

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Empowering Change

Stats about MALI

With one the poorest, most illiterate economies, Mali has already been served the grittiest of challenges. With challenges in many domains ranging from health to education, daily living seems impossible. So how do Malians manage?

4+ years on the ground in Mali has allowed me to truly see and understand the many challenges Malians face each day, especially in the remote rural villages. I have big respect for the people of Mali. They make the best of what they have. And they possess a desire to improve their circumstances. This is evident when we see villagers traveling for days from remote areas coming to request our foundation Empower Mali to help build a school or presenting a project in clean water. They come with the knowledge and willingness to participate financially. During the project, there are many hands involved from every community group in the village. And when the project is completed, each and every person celebrates knowing that their lives and the lives of their children will be just a little better for it.

Through Empower Mali, some great work to empower our communities is happening in Mali! And it would be impossible without generous hearts willing to help make a difference.

ThankyouWatkinsFamily2We have some Big News! Empower Mali has received a generous tractor and 3-classroom middle school donation by the Watkins Family of Alpine, Utah. We are grateful for their long-term investment in our communities. Their tractor donation will be used as part of our food security program in the region of Ouelessebougou and their school donation will help build the Micah Shea Watkins Academy in the village of Dongorona. The rural village of Dongorona is situated in the community of Oueléssébougou, Mali. With a population of 1300 households, there are 260 children currently attending primary and middle school. Many more have dropped out after 6th grade. The primary school, built in 1981, houses grades 1-6 and currently has 200 children, of which 36 are in the final 6th grade. Currently 60 children will walk the 12 miles each day to attend the neighboring middle school in Simidji. The road they walk is a main road which is continuously busy with many buses/cars/trucks travelling dangerously fast. Many parents in the village have withdrawn their girls because of fear of having them walk that long distance alone. A school in the village will give these girls an equal chance at an education and prevent early marriages. We hope to have this middle school ready for the children when school starts in October. Read more about this amazing donation here

We are also grateful for the kind donation of a potable water treatment system through Utah based Alpine Technical Services and AllChem. The system which will be installed in Dongorona will provide 1300+ households with clean water and ultimately a healthier life.

These past few months we have also been focused on finishing up the three classroom middle school, computer room and teachers housing for the remote village of Falla. We are now at roof level and in the next couple of months we will be putting on the roof and painting. This school too will be ready for the new school year in October.

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The three classroom middle school, computer and teachers housing in FALLA

So many exciting things are happening !! A big shout out on behalf of our people in Mali to each and every one of you who have helped empower our communities in Mali.

 

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2015 in Past Posts

 

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Building a future in FALLA

Marissa_FirstbrickFALLAThe joy in Falla is immense.

The excitement palpable.

The investment in Falla’s future generation immeasurable.

And YOU made it possible !

February 7th, 2015 will be a day that will be remembered for a long time by the citizens of the village of Falla. On this day, I was honored to represent all our kind donors as we laid the foundation stone of the Falla Academy. This middle school was only made possible because of the generosity of our supporters, friends and family.

Thank you for making this dream a reality and helping us on our mission to educate Mali one village at a time!

Falla, which has a population of 1,587 children is a 6 hour dusty and bumpy ride from the main city of Bamako. It is a very remote village located in the circle of Kolondieba in the Sikasso region.

Currently, there is a primary school in the village. After 6th grade, some children will walk 7-12 KM to middle schools in the neighboring villages of Touloula, Sikoro, Donkerila and Tiekongo. The long distance is a deterrent and many children drop out after 6th grade with many girls getting married and many boys working in the mines or farms.

With all middle schools our foundation Empower Mali builds, the village is required to show their commitment by providing 20% of the cost of the school and the land. The people of Mali do not want a hand out and with it sustainable development becomes impossible. The village commitment was fulfilled by Falla born Mamadou Kone, a Malian entrepreneur who now resides in the US. The remaining funding will be provided through our foundation Empower Mali. USD 50,000.00 was donated through a generous individual who wishes anonymity and the remainder through the kindness of other individual donors.

The event was attended by all the educational authorities in the area, a Parliament Member from the area and the entire village. The village chief, on behalf of his village, expressed their full support for the success of this project. The 3-classroom school when completed will house about (150) 7th-9th grade students from Falla and surrounding areas.

We are grateful for all who contributed to making this school a reality for the people of Falla. Construction should last about 3 months with the school being used for the new school year in October 2015.

In a country where literacy hangs dangerously low at 31%, this school will become an equal opportunity life changer for boys and girls in the area giving them a chance to finish at least their 9th grade exams, which is a basic requirement for most decent paying jobs and a rarity for most children and adults.

Education MaliThe groundbreaking ceremony was also covered on Mali’s National TV ORTM. You can watch it at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpIM6bngN8I

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Past Posts

 

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Beyond Right And Wrong

“In the stillness after conflict, after the blood dries and the screams fade, the memory of violence transforms survivors into prisoners of their own pain. How do whole societies recover from devastating conflict? Can survivors live—converse, smile, and even laugh—beside someone who blinded them, killed their parents, or murdered their children? Can victims and perpetrators work together to rebuild their lives? This life-changing documentary explores the intersections of justice and forgiveness as survivors heal from these tragedies.”–About the documentary Beyond Right and Wrong

Back in 2012, Mali experienced the peak of instability as a coup destabilized the country. But the coup was just the tipping point. For years, Mali’s North and South have failed to find a common ground. The failure is not on one side but a mish mash of ill feelings, insecurities and economic inequality. The North feels marginalized with no opportunities for a successful future. It is mainly this that pushes them to want separation from Mali. The South feels the North does not deserve this opportunity and that too many things are simply afforded them without them working for it. And so it continues that the two sides of Mali are in dis-accord. It is at this critical time that for the future prosperity, Mali needs to bring all sides to the table and have a national dialogue. Losses have been felt on both sides and nothing that happens now can take away the pain of lost lives and lost opportunities. However, if dialogue and reconciliation do not happen, Mali will remain broken. The power of this great country is not in one side or the other. Peace and prosperity can only come from an understanding between both sides of the table.

Kweku Mandela and Yeah Samake

Kweku Mandela and Yeah Samake

This documentary ‘Beyond Right And Wrong’ first came to our attention when Yeah attended the Sundance screening attended by Nelson Mandela’s grandson Kweku Mandela, who was promoting the film for his own charity. The lessons of the film speak true to what Mali and Africa truly needs from its future leaders and its citizens. Empower Mali is joining forces with Kweku Mandela and FilmRaise to bring attention to this amazing documentary on the lessons learned from past conflicts that have ripped countries and called into question the very meaning of humanity. This is what Mali needs. True dialogue can lead to true reconciliation. It’s where wants and needs must be put aside in favor of the bigger picture. It is not the easiest thing to do when you have lost someone you loved or can’t feed your family because of the situation. But it is the most crucial step that Mali will need to take to move forward.

So I ask you to take some time and watch this movie. It is powerful and the most heart wrenching film but it makes you truly ask yourself whether you can live the meaning of forgiveness.

FilmRaise has kindly agreed to donate $500 to our charity Empower Mali for every 1000 views we get. 10000 views can help us build a school. The power to impact change just got a little easier. All funds raised will be used to help Empower Mali continue impacting our people on the ground.

Watch it at: http://www.filmraise.com/beyond-right-and-wrong/empower-mali/ that detail the real stories below.

BeyondRighAndWrong_EmpowerMali

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Past Posts

 

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An example in Citizenship

When Yeah first took office as Mayor in 2009, the city of Ouelessebougou,made of its more than 44000 members, were frustrated with their local government. In fact they were so frustrated that they had stopped paying taxes. In many cases, the money that had been paid in taxes was abused by the then Mayor to build houses and buy cars. The result was a growing discontent with the Mayor’s office and a failing city that was as non-progressive as the whole country. Furthermore, since there was no tax money, that meant teachers at schools and the staff at the Mayor’s office could not get paid and in many cases this led to the heightened corruption among city officials so they could support their families.

When Yeah took office, he ran and was elected on a promise to root out the corruption that was plaguing the city. In June 2009, less than 10% of people were paying their taxes and Ouelessebougou was the 699th out of 703 cities in terms of development. Through gradually displaying to people that taxes linked directly to better services, Yeah was able to encourage the people of Ouelessebougou to begin and continue paying their taxes. Since then, the collected tax money has allowed employees at the Mayors office to be paid on time, paid for repairs on schools in the area, provided school supplies, helped build better facilities in many villages and encouraged a general good will towards Ouelessebougou from many businesses and NGOs. Many NGOs and businesses are knocking on Ouelessebougou’s doors seeing the success, transparency and ease of doing business. By 2011, 68% of people were paying taxes and Ouelessebougou moved to the top ten cities in terms of transparency and economic development.

Fast forward to 2014. This is the last year of Yeah’s first term as Mayor. This year, the Mayor’s office decided to do something different to acknowledge the great work that the different villages in the community of Ouelessebougou were doing to make sure that their taxes were paid on time. The Mayor’s office partnered with a local organization called PACT ( Programme d’Appui aux Collectivités Territoriales/Support Programme for Local Authorities) to publicly acknowledge and celebrate the community’s success at paying their taxes. Part of this Citizenship Day called on a public paying of taxes by all leaders of the community ( village chiefs, Mayor, Deputies, Local Chief of the Police, Chief of Customs in Ouelessebougou etc). It is said that actions speak louder than words and what better way to encourage and support tax payment than to publicly pay one’s taxes. In just one day, the city of Ouelessebougou collected over $3000 just from the community leaders. In addition, independent consultants reported a tax collection rate of 100.74 % ( the number being this high also because some people back paid their taxes from 2009). An additional surprise was the acknowlegement by the Government of Mali who sent their Mininster of Decentralization, Malick Alhoussein, to represent the government at this important event. When the Minister spoke, he publicly acknowledged Yeah’s efforts in truly practicing decentralization and turning Ouelessebougou into an example of a well managed city. He praised the efforts of the different village chiefs and also the people of Ouelessebougou for setting an example for the rest of the country.

These efforts are plain to see in the development that is springing up all over Ouelessebougou. From clean running water to clean energy and from infrastructure like factories, stadium enclosures, a new high school and a new hospital, Ouelessebougou will soon become a dream city for many in Mali. And this all is possible because one man said enough was enough and then showed his people how to manage their money honestly into development. Ouelessebougou is breaking all boundaries on development and showing the rest of Mali how it should be done. I am very proud to be the First Lady of this great city!

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Past Posts

 

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Education for Mali

For Many, A Child's Life in Mali

For Many, A Child’s Life in Mali

Watching the children in Mali, my heart sometimes catches. For many of our children in Mali, there is no future under the current circumstances. Many of them will never have the opportunity to make something of themselves. Many girls will get married of by the time they are 15. Many boys, having no better option, will farm or follow the family business. Many more will remain without a job and with no opportunity, will join the masses that beg on the street to supplement what they make so they can take care of their family.

Fact of the matter is, this is a dreary picture and a dreadful reality for many Malians. If you were to stay in Mali, you would not be able to tell that most Malians are suffering. Malians are the most happy people I have seen. Maybe it was God’s one blessing to them to help cope with their miserable circumstances. But Malians are certainly not lacking in entrepreneurial spirit. This is evident from the large number of business people ranging from the side of the road seller to the store keeper.

The one thing that can truly help shape Mali into a success story in the long run is education. Today 70% of Mali’s population is in the age group 0-25. Yet only 31% of Mali’s population is literate. This figure is even lower for girls. While the government was able to put a elementary school in most villages, much of Mali’s 80% rural population lacks a middle school. Simply, because the government does not have the resources to build middle schools. So after 6th grade, many children will drop out of school simply because they have no access to one. For many a middle school is several villages and towns away.

I cannot imagine my children walking 5 miles (7km) a day to go to school. Not just once, but 4 times because in Mali, children return home for lunch. Now add in dirty, dusty roads and predators and you have a situation where most parents will keep their children at home.

For the past 10 years we have raised awareness about the one thing that has impacted our own lives. And that is the power of education. Yeah and I have both been blessed with extraordinary circumstances and blessings. And it is our education that has taken us many places and allowed us to make a living. But not just that, it is our education that ensures that our own children will never know the pain of hunger or the lack of opportunity. Our parents by giving us an education helped break the cycle of poverty and the lack of opportunities that spring from illiteracy.

Now we want to give that back to the people of Mali. It seems like an enormous task, but I am always reminded that sometimes all it takes to make change is the power of one. We are not Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi or even Mother Theresa. But we do have an honest desire to see change come to Mali and we do enjoy the support of wonderful friends and family and even unknown supporters that keep our work going. Through our foundation Empower Mali, we are partnering with villages in Mali to take our education back and empower our young children to stay in school and get educated. And not just get an education, but create an opportunity to build a brighter future for themselves.

We currently have two middle schools under construction adding to the 17 others Yeah has already brought to Mali. Two middle schools, one in Katele and one in Ferekoroba, that when completed will be seen as the beacon of hope for the children of that village. We are so grateful to our friends, family and supporters who have invested in these buildings of hope and in all our activities for Mali.It has been a blessing to visit these villages before the school is built and then visit the classrooms after. The classroom is teeming with life and activity and one only has to chat a few minutes with the students to see the immense joy they get from being able to enjoy childhood and the freedom of education for a few more years.

Empower Mali School Ferekoroba

Building Youth Around the World Academy of Ferekoroba

Empower Mali School Katele

DeJoria Academy of Katele

Our fight to educate our children in Mali will not stop with just building schools. Through Empower Mali, we hope to help introduce teacher training and adult literacy classes. We hope to couple the power of education with access to good healthcare, clean water and solar power to light up villages. We all have the chance to help lift Mali from within. Mali’s success will be the success of our children just like Mali’s failure will pull the rest of the world down. We all have the opportunity to become the change we want to see in the world. For Yeah and me, we have been blessed with the chance to share our blessings, one village, one community and one school at a time.

Empowering Mali one child at a time

Empowering Mali one child at a time

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Past Posts

 

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The journey continues

The last few months have been months of dilemma to say the least. After the first round of elections on July 28th, when we knew we would not move on, we could not offer support to either of the two candidates that made it to the second round. Both spelled a change that would never come to Mali, an action in opposition to our campaign slogan of “Turning the page of 20 years of government mismanagement and corruption”. That decision cost us a lot, probably even a seat in the government. Nevertheless, it is a choice we believed in strongly.

Since August, when the new government was seated, we have been debating what our next steps will be. We have continued the humanitarian aspect of our work in Mali through our foundation Empower Mali

On the political side of things, our party has remained active. While many hopes were dashed when we lost the Presidential election, many people remain committed to bringing change to Mali. The new government is proving to have a difficult time managing Mali’s many issues. Since August we have debated whether Yeah would run for Parliamentary elections in his area this coming November.

In the hope that we can continue to bring change and to gain more political experience, Yeah has decided to run for Parliament in his area of Kati. This is the only way we believe we can continue to impact change in government practices. As Mayor, Yeah has made leaps and bounds in developing his area in just a matter of years. We want that passion for development to infuse into every area in his region and in this country. As a member of Parliament, he will be able to access the decision makers for the different regions and help shape the country there.

The Parliamentary elections are to be held November 24th, 2013. During the coming weeks, Yeah will launch a grassroots campaign to reach the different villages and areas within the Kati area. There are 386274 registered voters. As you know, elections need money. We are trying to raise $15,000 to allow Yeah and his team to travel to the different villages and areas of Kati and campaign vigorously before the date.

If you can and are willing to support our efforts to continue and bring change to Mali, please donate at https://secure.donationreport.com/donate.html?key=ZIXMMNJSKLPH

We continue our fight to bring change to Mali! The change begins with each one of us. Help us help Mali.

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Past Posts

 

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