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Child labour and child trafficking in West Africa

On 12 June 2008 the ILO celebrated the 7th World Day Against Child Labour on the theme : "Education : the right response to child labour". Pragmatically, there is a distinction between "acceptable" work - meaning light work, incorporating a child’s education and family life and allowing him/her to go to school - and "child labour". This expression covers all kinds of activities that deprive children of their childhood and dignity, harm their health, compromise their education and lead to other forms of exploitation and mistreatment (corporal punishments, sexual abuse).


The ILO estimates that child labour affects about 165 million children, aged between 5 and 14 years old. It concerns numerous sectors of activity throughout the world : agriculture, industry, domestic work, etc. A lot of children work very long hours and in often dangerous conditions (contact with chemicals, dangerous equipment too heavy to handle given their age, and beyond their capacity…).

- To listen to, to watch :

  • Radio sketches and the cartoon dedicated to this question
  • The MAEJT’s website that fights against exploitation and bad working conditions of child labour.

From child trade to child labour : many children throughout the world are victims of trade or child trafficking

We talk about trade or child trafficking when a child is taken by force or through deception, to be exploited economically or sexually inside or outside a given country. Nowadays, child trade is one of the worst forms of violation of human rights throughout the world. According to the ILO it affects about 1.2 million children every year, including hundreds of thousands of children in West Africa alone.

In the sub-region, children are trafficked for domestic work, work in plantations or illegal workshops, small business, begging, soliciting, the sex trade or are recruited by armed groups. They make up a cheap or unpaid workforce who can work anything from 10 to 20 hours per day, carrying heavy loads, using dangerous tools, without being given enough to eat and drink. This trafficking exposes children to violence, child abuse and HIV infection and contravenes their right to be protected, to grow up in a family and to have access to education.

- To listen to :

In Togo, for example the phenomenon of cross-border child trafficking is extremely widespread.

  • 313 000 Togolese children between 5 and 15 years old work in urban zones in Togo or in foreign countries and are treated as almost slaves.
  • 74% of these children are girls.
  • 66% of children between 15 and 18 years old are victims of forced labour.

The girls are destined to work as maids or in the markets, mainly abroad (Gabon, Benin, Niger, Nigeria), and the boys are sent to Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire or Benin to work in agricultural plantations.

It is the same process most of the time : agents working for organized child trafficking networks infiltrate poor communities with tempting offers of schooling and an income that means going somewhere else to find. The children recruited - with or without parental approval - leave their family home in the hope of being able to earn enough money to support their families financially, pursue their education or just in order to be able to buy material goods such as a bicycle or a radio cassette player.

- To listen to, to watch :

The case of the Talibés : an alarming regional phenomenon

In West Africa the exploitation of children for begging purposes is widespread as seen in the phenomenon of the talibés (those children who attend Koranic school). Senegal is particularly affected, with more than 100 000 beggar children (according to UNICEF) throughout the country, most of whom are talibés. These young boys aged between 3 and 15 years old are entrusted to a Koranic teacher (a marabout) by their parents to receive a religious education. However, instead of concentrating on their religious studies, the boys are forced to beg every day to make up for the lack of their marabout’s means to look after them financially. With time, this practice has turned into a form of child exploitation and the boys are very often mistreated physically if they don’t return with the set amount of money that has been fixed for them to collect each day. As a result, these children are very vulnerable as they live in conditions of extreme poverty, suffering from malnutrition, without access to health care and are victims of violence.

In spite of the existence of two laws ; one forbidding the exploitation of children and another that makes begging illegal (April 2005), Senegal has become a kind of meeting place for begging and the destination for young beggars coming from all over the sub-region.

- To listen to, to watch :


Read & listen...

Children trafficking

Children need to be protected against all forms of exploitation.
Mali
Language : French (Mali)
Type : Radio sketches
Download


The enchained freedom

Children have the right to be protected against economic exploitation. In a compound far way from the village around 100 children are kept prisoner.
Cameroon
Language : French (Cameroon)
Type : Radio sketches
Time : 05mn 27
Download


Talibe

One of the hits from the album Tundu Joor. The song ‘Talibé’ protests about the situation of beggar children who roam the streets of Dakar and beyond.
Senegal
Language : Wolof
Type : Videoclip
Album : Tundu Joor
Time : 04:14
Download


The open door

Many children are victims of child labour. Adults such as Mr. Kro force them to work and stop them from going to school and playing. GAnion reminds us that it is forbidden to use child labour and that it must be fought against.
West Africa
Language : English
Type : cartoon


The radio

Yao worked really hard for a year in Nigeria so he could buy himself a radio, but now it doesn’t work...
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Two friends, one bicycle

Kodjo and his friend decide to go and work in Nigeria to buy a bike. During the trip the children are caught in a fire in the bush and Kodjo’s friend dies…
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


A better futur

Children should go to school and learn so they can help their families and make a better future. You shouldn’t leave your country to look for happiness somewhere else. This is what Hodalo says.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Leaving for far away

Two young girls disappear after talking to a woman at the school exit. They were taken far from their village to work, which stopped them going to school and sitting their exams at the end of the year like everybody else.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
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Waiting

Moutawakilou worked two years in Nigeria because Oga, a drug dealer, had promised to buy him a motorbike in exchange, but he didn’t keep his word.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
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Oga (trafficker)

Abibou was taken with other children to Nigeria by a child-trafficker. He had promised to buy Abibou a motorbike. In fact, he used him to earn money and stopped him from going to school and so destroyed his chances of an education.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Akouvi at school

Akouvi wants to learn to sew so she can make her own clothes. Without listening to her mother who forbids her to do this, she decides to go to Nigeria in order to buy a sewing machine. She returns some time later, unhappy and without a sewing machine.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
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The dream

Even if certain women say that in Nigeria you can have everything you dream of (wraps, radios. .), Mawulé says this isn’t true and tells how her stay there was very difficult.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
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The motocycle

Agbéko worked in Nigeria for two years to buy a motorbike. He only rode it once and then he had an accident. Since then it no longer works. Two years of working in tough conditions and all that suffering for nothing !
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Over there

Many young girls are persuaded to go and work in Nigeria in order to be able to buy everything they’ve ever dreamed of. There, they are, in fact exploited by adults and only experience unhappiness.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Being proud

Amavi tells us that it’s more rewarding to work at home in the village, rather than work as a domestic help far away from home.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Talking with my parents

Despite her parents forbidding her to go there, Assigble set off for Nigeria. On her return she tells of the unhappiness she experienced whilst living there.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Feel lucky

A group of Togolese children taken to work in Benin and Nigeria explain their decision never to go back there.
Togo
Language : English
Média : Video
Download


Jay xalé yi

Waraba is an enslaved child sold by his parents who couldn’t afford to look after him.
West Africa
Language : Wolof
Album : Poto Poto
Time : 03mn 48
Download


Talibé

Moussa relates everyday life of the talibé (beggar child) in Africa. These children are often exploited
West Africa
Language : Wolof
Album : Poto Poto
Time : 04mn 39
Download


Taalibe

Omar Ndiaye is one of the leading figures on the Senegalese musical scene, whose acoustic folk is developing as much as electric Mbalax.
Senegal
Language : Wolof
Album : Tundu Joor
Time : 04mn 24
Download


Xolalma taalibe

This text is written entirely in rap by children from Tundu Joor, and is sung in different languages : French, Wolof, Fula, Englis and Sossi,
Senegal
Language : Wolof
Album : Tundu Joor
Time : 04mn 15
Download


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