Olga Katilé, a young Malian adolescent aged 15, is the winner of UNESCO’s “Pathways to a Culture of Peace: Global Contest for Mutual Understanding “, in the category “Essay” for her poem “If peace ...” (“Si la paix …”). She received the award on Thursday 13 February 2014 in Bamako, the capital of her country, from Mamadou Diarra Gaoussou , Minister of Youth and Sports of Mali, accompanied by her parents and professors from the schools Kalanso and Kodonso.
The competition was launched on 21 September 2012, on the occasion of the International Day of Peace, within the framework of UNESCO’s Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. Young people were asked to express themselves through artistic creation on their practice of “everyday peace” and its intrinsic values. More than 1,300 young people, between 14 and 25 years old, from 55 different countries, participated in the competition in four categories: essay, photography, video and graphic arts.
Artworks were judged by a jury on the basis of the originality and creativity. The competition invited young people to consider the “Other” in the rich diversity of its origins and its culture. The promotion of these values is also at the very heart of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2012.
After listening to the winner reading her poem, the Minister of Youth and Sports of Mali, Mamadou Diarra Gaoussou, expressed his “pleasure” to preside over this ceremony. “Your international recognition honors Mali. It makes you an ambassador of the Dembé generation which we support and would like to help emerge. Therefore, you must illustrate excellence and exemplarity to also influence the entire nation.” Referring to the theme of the competition, the Minister also noted that it “is of particular interest to Mali which has emerged from a period of trouble and has started to work on its reconstruction.”
For Lazarus Eloundou, Director of the UNESCO Office in Bamako, Mali, the “brilliant work” of Olga “testifies to the creative spirit of the Malian youth.” He also expressed his hope that the example of Olga Katilé, student at the Kodonso high school, will stimulate others in the country or on the continent.
In the words of Olga “Peace depends on the behavior of every single person vis-à- vis others ... I am inspired by the dramatic situation we are currently living in my country, Mali, this situation which has already lasted for more than one year ... My poem is intended, through its various verses, to make people understand the importance of the state of mind of everyone in a society ...”