Maimouna's birth was a problem for her father. The little girl from Kolokani in southern Mali was born without legs. Her parents, Adama and Farima, bore her birth as shame, knowing she would be spoken ill of because of her disability.
Isolated, she cried a lot and was disgusted with school.
Her mother, overwhelmed and feeling humiliated for birthing a disabled person, left the marital home with her daughter to live with her older sister in Didieni, a community in World Vision's Baoule area program. There they lived for seven years. Towards the end of the 7th year, Farima went back to join her husband in Kolokani, leaving Maimouna with her sister.
Maimouna went to school for the first time in 2017-2018; she was already nine years old. She moves around in a special rickshaw she paddles with her arms.
School was a shock to Maimouna. According to the school principal, she was the subject of much contempt, mockery and rejection by her schoolmates. Isolated, she cried a lot and was disgusted with school.
Maimouna has become the star of the school.
Today, with the implementation of the inclusive WASH-UP! project, Maimouna has become the star of the school. Her classmates help her, and in return, she also helps them.
Maimouna smiles brightly and confesses, "I like the WASH-UP! program because it taught me many things, like being a champion of hygiene, cleanliness and hygiene through the games and images; not to forget the videos of Raya, Elmo and Giza (Sesame Street characters). I love all three characters, but Giza is my favourite. He is in the same situation as me; however, he has found his smile, like me. Now I can help my friends become cleaner and nicer."
"I love all three characters, but Giza is my favourite. He is in the same situation as me; however, he has found his smile, like me."
"The WASH-UP! project does not exclude any child. Not only have we learned to be accepting and helpful but also to be clean and neat. We now have a water point and a restroom, all with ramps, in the school compound that perfectly meets my needs. Handwashing devices with soap are also at the exit of the restroom. I expect this program to continue the betterment of children like me.”
The WASH-UP! project, in collaboration with Sesame Street, teaches children proper hygiene and sanitation practices through interactive games, songs and activities. The project teaches inclusiveness of persons in disability, debunking myths and stigmas attached to their conditions. The project also provides the necessary facilities to ensure accessibility for all.
Today, Maimouna loves going to school. She has regained her confidence and is accepted by all in her school. The WASH-UP! project has restored her dignity and opened the hearts and minds of a coming generation.