Nationality

Senegal

Education

PhD in International Law, René Descartes University, France

Masters in International Economy and Development Law, René Descartes University, Paris, France

Masters in Political Science, University of Vincennes, Saint-Denis, France

Diploma in International Relations, EHEI, Paris, France

Languages

English, French, Wolof

It was on the car radio that I first heard about the earthquake in Haiti. I was on my way to work at the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), and the tragic news put me in a state of shock. Only months earlier, I had applied for a position with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and many of my colleagues were based there.

That was in January 2010. Eight months later, I was on a plane bound for Port-au-Prince on assignment for MINUSTAH. My long-standing desire to work in Haiti was about to be realized, though in more challenging conditions than I had ever envisioned.

As a Child Protection Advisor, I am used to working in difficult circumstances. We work on issues such as child trafficking, illegal adoption, child soldier release and rehabilitation and advocacy against sexual violence. Our job is to ensure that peacekeepers - who are our eyes and ears in the field - are trained on child rights and protection issues. We also monitor, report and document child rights violations, and advocate on these issues to government and other stakeholders.

My interest in children’s rights started while I was working my PhD thesis in International Law. I decided to go to Malawi as a volunteer with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to do research into child rights. While in Malawi, I was hired as a consultant by UNICEF in the Child Protection unit, where I dealt with issues surrounding children and HIV/AIDS. Upon finishing my PhD, I wanted to continue working with children but with a focus on armed conflict. I applied for a position as a Child Protection Advisor in the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), and in 2005, began work to advocate for the release of child soldiers from armed groups and forces. In 2008, I was transferred to Burundi where our team, working together with UNICEF, successfully advocated and negotiated for the release of 600 child soldiers from armed groups.

After five years in Africa, I started wondering about child protection issues in other parts of the world. An ocean away, Haiti has experienced many issues surrounding child trafficking, children associated with armed gangs and illegal adoption. These problems existed prior to the earthquake, but the disaster made it easier for traffickers to kidnap children for forced domestic work and prostitution. Our work at MINUSTAH is to train peacekeepers on issues relating to children, for example, identifying children at risk of kidnapping, and to ensure that new laws and policies written in Haiti will incorporate the rights of the child.

One of the best things about my job is the regular home leave. This means that even though my family cannot accompany me to MINUSTAH, I can go home to see them frequently. To make a difference in the world, sometimes means journeying far from the people you love, but I am willing to do it in order to contribute to Haiti’s reconstruction. It is this sense of contribution that compels me to continue my work in child protection, no matter where the job takes me.

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