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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Youth summit delegate has faith in G8 talks
By Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News

Aminata Palmer
Aminata believes the G8 leaders will be able to cause real changes

The first children's version of the G8 summit of global leaders will take place in Scotland next week.

C8 delegate Aminata Palmer told BBC News about her thoughts on poverty and meeting Gordon Brown.

Next week much of the world's attention is likely to focus on Gleneagles in Scotland, where the G8 summit will be held.

The meeting of leaders from leading industrial nations will focus on development in Africa when it meets on 6 - 8 July.

But just three days before this event, youngsters from the poorest countries will join children from the richest nations at a forum in Dunblane, Stirlingshire.

They will draw up a manifesto and present it to world leaders at the summit in nearby Gleneagles.

Eleven-year-old Aminata Palmer, from Sierra Leone, will be among the delegates at the event, which will be the first of its kind.

Meeting Gordon Brown

The youngster, who will be affected by any agreements reached by her adult counterparts, has expressed faith in their ability to alleviate problems in the world's poorest countries.

"I want the G8 leaders to help stop suffering among children in the world. People are suffering - especially in my country," said the child, who presents a radio programme in her home country and has become something of a celebrity among young people.

"They have the power and money to change things - they have everything. They can do it by talking and making agreements.

"I don't know how they change things, but they will."

Aminata Palmer with friends at school
Aminata says education is crucial to improving her country's fortunes

On Wednesday, Aminata addressed Unicef's annual lecture on child poverty, where Chancellor Gordon Brown gave a speech.

"Gordon Brown was very nice and friendly - he likes children," she said.

"I was excited to meet him and I would like to meet him again - I even invited him to the C8."

However, she stressed that she realised the chancellor had a heavy workload and said she would understood if he would not be able to attend the three-day C8 event, which is being held from 3 - 5 July.

Aminata, who will represent Sierra Leone, is set to join young people representing Bhutan, Moldova, Yemen, Guinea, Cambodia, Lesotho and Bolivia, in addition to children from the UK, France, Italy and Germany.

And, despite her youth, the child has very clear views on the problems that plague her country and what is needed to improve people's quality of life.

Chancellor Gordon brown delivers his speech at Labour's conference in Brighton
Aminata said she enjoyed meeting Chancellor Gordon Brown

She said some children endure sexual exploitation, trafficking and child labour.

"There is suffering due to literacy problems and children living in the streets, as well as conflict and exploitation," she added.

And, by way of example, she went on: "Some are exploited by other family members who make them carry heavy loads - loads that I couldn't carry - and they don't go to school."

The youngster, who lives in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, lives alone with her mother as her father left when she was a baby.

Her mother, who is a seamstress, had poor access to education, as did her aunts.

During the civil war - which ended two years ago, there was little trade and her family suffered.

If I ran Sierra Leone I would make sure that every child had access to good medical facilities and could go to school
Aminata Palmer
C8 delegate

This gave Aminata first-hand experience of the poverty that led the UN to rank Sierra Leone, where fourth-fifths of the population live on less than $1 a day, as the poorest nation in the world.

She believes education will play a crucial role in reversing this malaise.

"I have been involved in education matters in my community and my experience is that the rate of education in Sierra Leone is very low and that has contributed to the high rate of dropout in Sierra Leone," she said.

"Some children don't go to school because their families can't afford to pay for school fees and uniform.

"But they need education. Without education there is nothing they can do. Education is the key to everything."

"If I ran Sierra Leone I would make sure that every child had access to good medical facilities and could go to school," she concluded.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the 11-year-old Sierra Leone C8 delegate



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