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Type of document: News
Topic: Actions/initiatives/projects
Geographic descriptors: Benin
Language: English
Source: www.redcross.org/article/0,1072,0_312_5019,00.html
Date of publication: 22 December 2005
Long Abstract: Benin's Red Cross Supports Child Trafficking Victims

Written by Lesly C. Simmons , Staff Writer, RedCross.org

Thursday, December 22, 2005 COTONOU, Benin Twelve year old Fabricia is one of about 40 children living in a small, school-like compound in Porto-Nova, Benin, after being rescued from a life of servitude as a victim of the country’s rampant child trafficking problem.

As is sometimes custom in West African countries, an uncle offered to take Fabricia from her parents in Porto-Nova and raise her as his own. Her parents agreed, expecting that she might be better off with him and his family than she was with them. They were wrong.

When Fabricia arrived at her uncle’s home in Cameroon, his wife immediately began mistreating her, forcing her to sell bread in the main market in town. When she didn’t sell it all, her aunt would beat her. Too poor to pay for school and with no other family nearby, Fabricia felt hopeless until she steeled to her courage to get away.

One day Fabricia sold as much bread as she could, and took the money she made to run away. She made it back to Porto-Nova, and to the Center for the Protection of Children, run by the Benin Red Cross.

The center opened in 2001 as a place where children can live safely while their family is located or a new one is found, in response to the onslaught of child trafficking. The program is run in conjunction with the Belgian Red Cross, UNICEF, and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Child trafficking is a well-documented problem in much of West Africa. Children are taken from their homes or often sold by their families, and end up engaged in child prostitution or forced labor. Acknowledging the problem, in June the Governments of Benin and the Nigeria signed an agreement to “to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons with emphasis on trafficking in women and children.

Hubert Dedegbe is the project chief and has been at the center since it opened. The center has 60 rooms and is currently home to about 40 residents, ages 8-15. Since its creation, nearly 1,600 children have benefited from the Center’s support, including 450 during 2005. The children stay for about three months, where they are reintroduced to society in positive ways and given options for their future.

We work to help the children accept themselves, so they don’t believe something is wrong with them, said Dedegbe. We work to improve the condition of the children’s lives.

Fabricia, for example, will begin attending school again thanks to an organization that will help pay her school fees. Other children are reunited with their families, or taught a trade.

Files: ( .doc 23 KB )

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