“You are the virus! You want to infect us," say some people when they meet the group of girl advocates out in their community in Mali raising awareness about COVID-19. It is not an easy task as rumours and false information have left some people thinking that the disease is just a myth or not as dangerous as they are being told.
But these young change leaders are not deterred and are spurred on when they meet people who appreciate their work. "Some people tell us: ‘We did not know that this evil was real, we are now aware of what is at stake.’ They say that our explanations have helped them understand better, especially since they can ask us questions directly,” explains Inourou.
As part of Plan International’s COVID-19 response in Mali, we have initiated awareness-raising activities throughout the country. In Mopti region, girl campaigners from our various youth advocacy groups have come together to provide people with accurate information on the disease and advise them of the preventative measures they need to take to protect themselves from the virus.
The girls received training and protective equipment to enable them to carry out this activity. "When I learned that the coronavirus was in Mali, I was so afraid that I fell ill for several days. After being trained in the subject, I was calmer, but that didn't stop me from worrying every day," says Inna.
The girl leaders target places where a lot of people gather, such as bus stations, markets, camps for displaced people and train stations. "Each time these girls come to the camp to raise awareness, it reminds me of my responsibility as camp coordinator and pushes me to ensure there is compliance with the advised preventative measures," admits the coordinator of an IDP camp in Mopti.
In addition to raising awareness, the girls also helping to distribute hygiene kits to vulnerable families and regularly monitor that the kits are being used properly. Plan International is distributing thousands of family handwashing kits to families in our programme areas and we will soon be introducing them in schools along with face masks to ensure children’s welfare when they eventually return to the classroom.
We are also working with school management and protection committees who, after receiving training, are conducting door-to-door awarness and information activities in Mopti region where Plan International runs its Education in Emergency project.
"Coming to my house to talk to me about this evil that I did not believe in, makes me understand the seriousness of the situation. I now know the preventive measures and I am doing my best to convey the awareness messages in my community," expressed one elderly man with gratitude.