West African Countries Raise Awareness on Risks of Irregular Migration among Children, Youth

from International Organization for Migration
Published on 17 Nov 2017 View Original

Kolda, Mamou – The UN Migration Agency, in collaboration with UNICEF and local actors and with support of the Swedish government, is organizing sensitization activities on the risks associated to child migration in several countries.

In Senegal and Guinea, a team of animators and volunteers visited schools in key regions of origin and transit: Kolda and Mamou respectively. The sensitization campaign was done through local community workshops, radio spots, poems, football, returnees’ testimonies, theatre and music; and the distribution of schoolbooks, posters, informative flyers and leaflets.

West and Central African regions are characterized by a long history of intra and extra regional migration. Youth and child migration is rooted in the culture and linked to traditional practices like the confiage (the practice of handing over one’s child to a relative) and Koranic education.

Children move for different reasons, but when unaccompanied or separated, they are particularly vulnerable and often lack adequate protection. Countries like Senegal and Guinea see a lot of their children and youth leaving in search of better opportunities abroad.

IOM, with the support of the Swedish Government, is organizing a series of sensitization activities in important cities of origin and transit. The main objective is to inform migrant children and youth about the risks they may face along migration routes, to prevent cases of abuse and exploitation and to inform on the services available in countries of origin, transit and destination.

Local authorities in Mamou, Guinea joined IOM in the diffusion of radio spots and the organisation of participative focus groups, poems, movie screening and school visits. When asked if she knew what the desert is, Khadiatou, a 10-year-old student at Ecole Centrale de Mamou, said: “In the desert, there are people who do not like us.”

Key partners were also invited to take part in a radio show, recorded on the local radio. They all emphasized the importance of awareness raising and had the opportunity to inform the public about services available in their community. Thierno Ousmane Sow, representative of the African Movement of Working Children and Youth (AMWCY) in Mamou, said returnees are key messengers. “The ones who went can better raise awareness than the ones who did not,” Sow concluded.

The Comité Departemental de Protection de l’Enfance (CDPE) in Kolda, Senegal and the orphanage ‘La joie des orphelins’ organized six school visits to inform the children on the risks of irregular migration. Through theatre, music and a questionnaire, children were invited to express their experiences with migration and their dreams. Twenty-nine volunteers distributed flyers, posters, t-shirts and hats, and responded to their questions.

Samba Di Samria Diao, director of the orphanage in Kolda is positive: “As I am an orphan myself, I see it as a moral duty to inform the youth about the importance of education and the risks of irregular migration. If you have the chance to study, you should take it with both hands.” Diao added, “There is so much potential here in the region of Kolda. Raising awareness is the first step. Developing their capacities and making them benefit from it is the next step.”

Kadiatou Diallo, a 15-year-old from the region of Kolda realises she needs education to fulfil her dream: “I want to be a journalist but for that I need to speak more languages. Once I have finished high school I want to go to France and try to learn new languages.”

The activities are part of the project Protecting Migrant Children in West and Central Africa, funded by the Government of Sweden and implemented by IOM in close cooperation with UNICEF.

The project also includes a series of 13 trainings to reinforce members of the Government and Civil Society’s capacities to provide direct assistance to migrant children and to ensure their rights are respected.

Trainings are taking place in eight countries (Cabo Verde, Mauritania, Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, the Gambia and Mali) over six months, ending in December.

For more information please contact: Tijs Magagi Hoornaert on tmhoornaert@iom.int or +221 784 600 619

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