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Public education campaign spotlights trafficking in Senegal

 

Senegal's Anti-Trafficking Task force ran a media caravan from 6-13 of May 2013 to raise awareness on human trafficking in the west African nation. The public education initiative was implemented under the framework of UN.GIFT, in collaboration with UNODC, ILO and UNICEF.

 

 

The objective of the caravan was to address the fact that Senegal is a major human trafficking hub. A group of 15 journalists from local television, radio, and news outlets, civil society organizations and two national directories in charge of child protection attended the caravan, which attracted widespread media attention. Three zones were identified and selected for a visit by the caravan on the basis of the prevalence of various trafficking forms in these zones, including sex trafficking, forced labor and forced child begging. These zones include: Kedougou (South east of Senegal), 830 kilometers from Dakar, Koumpentoum, 348 kilometers from Dakar, and Nioro located 209 kilometers from Dakar.

 

In Kedougou, the journalists who participated expressed their dismay to what they discovered on the field. Young boys and girls under 18 years of age had been trafficked to Kharakhena, one of the 87 traditional gold mining sites. Some of the children were working in the mines to dig shafts, haul heavy rocks in buckets, fetch water or work as vendors in restaurants. Some of the children descended even 25 meters to haul up buckets full of rocks in places where adults can't access.

 

On the same site, participants met several young women from Nigeria and Ghana who were sex workers and who confessed that originally they had hoped to emigrate to Western Europe or Gulf countries to look for work opportunities. Each of the young women aged 21-28 years had paid 1 million CFA to a "Madame" in the hope of travelling to Europe from their home countries. Instead, they were transported to Benin and Mali before reaching Kedougou where they were compelled to work as prostitutes to survive. They confessed that they were suffering in the village as they were far from where they were hoping to end up and the living standards are very difficult. The girls currently live without water, adequate sanitation, electricity, and "nothing but dust and the unstopping noise of motors and the fumes of fuel". Worse, they said that at times, they don't have enough to eat when men refuse to pay the 2000 CFA agreed upon as the price for their "services".

 

After the interview, the three girls were referred to UNODC funded programme of assistance to victims of trafficking presently being implemented by the NGO La Lumiere in the regions of Kedougou and Kolda.

 

After the region of Kedougou, the caravan headed to Koumpentoum (348 kilometres from Dakar). In this region, the journalists met with local administrative authorities of the region, local school authorities, community leaders and young girls. Indeed, the department of Koumpentoum is one of the most important zones of departure for hundreds of girls who travel each year to Tambacounda and Kaolack in order to work as maids. The working conditions are "awful" as described by the village chief who was delegated last year by village members to investigate the living conditions of the girls in the region of Tambacounda. He said that he was shocked to find 25 girls sleeping in one small room in deplorable conditions. The girls are also subjected to various forms of exploitation and abuse, including rape, unpaid salaries, and other injustices.

 

During a forum organized with the support of the NGO La Lumiere, the journalists discussed with the villagers the reasons for sending their daughters to work under the described conditions and raised awareness on the problems associated with domestic work and its consequences.

 

After Koumpentoum, the journalists went to Nioro, area of Kaolack (209 kilometers from Dakar). In this area, the journalists met with local authorities of the administration and visited two Koran Schools that, unlike many others, do not use begging as a means to finance their activities. In the past 10 years, these Koran schools have organized themselves in order to be self-sufficient. To this end, for example the Koran school is cultivating land and requests financial support from parents who are able to pay 30 000 CFA each year for the school fees and lodging costs for the students.

 

The children are authorized to attend public schools in order to continue their studies after the completion of the Koran training. Some of the former students are now attending university at Cheick Anta Diop Dakar University.

 

UNODC's support to the initiative is linked to its strategic objective to raise awareness on the issue of trafficking in persons in order to mobilize financial and human resources for its significant reduction in Senegal and in West Africa.