Here is a poster of a government sponsored program called “Children Witnesses” (Témoignage des Enfants) which provides funding for NGOs and social workers to hire professionals/psychologists that speak to children about their experiences with the recent war. The purpose of this is trifold: to provide support, an opportunity to share experiences in a non-judgmental space, and a way to ensure peace in the future. The program is spearheaded by the Commission for Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation.
This is the project I’ve been focusing on these past few weeks with MESAD, and I’m proud to say the progress is tangible. Many of the youth are encouraged to work and make money as soon as possible, a form of coerced labor trafficking in itself–as many travel abroad the city or even across countries to sell things in the market. Olga, regional director of Treichville district of Abidjan, was explaining to me yesterday that in Ivory Coast, much of the labor trafficking going on is perpetuated by families and relatives looking to make money off the children they cannot support financially. Mr. Konan explained last week that Europeans brought vaccinations, and though positive in terms of life expectancy, they also created a problem in many African countries in that they were administered without people being educated as to what they do. He said, though he has one healthy child, his mother still to this day worries and encourages him to have more due to the fear that the child might die. She gave birth to some 10 children, of which 3-4 survived, so for many on the older generation, the threat of infant mortality could only be assuaged with having many children. However, due to wide accessibility to vaccines at present, giving birth to many children isn’t necessary, but since many aren’t educated on the purpose of the vaccines, they do not necessarily understand that their children are safe and they don’t need to overcompensate. This leads to overpopulation and the phenomenon of street children, which is a heartbreakingly common sight in Abidjan. Many children start working at 6-7 years old, some are even kept from school so they can still things and make money.
Next week, I’m going to Benin to meet with an NGO in Cotonou that works to gain child workers greater rights and safe place to stay…
In the mean time, the flu finally caught up with me, and the three mosques that sing and pray behind my bedroom window at all good of the night have kept me from a single decent night of sleep, so I’m definitely looking forward to a change on scenery!
Until next time!