News from Maison de la Gare
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Battling the travesty of child trafficking
Most of the talibé children who are welcomed each day in Maison de la Gare’s center have been
sent to a Saint Louis daara by their families in remote areas of Senegal.
Of the 2,571 children
registered entering the center in the first ten months of 2022, 61% originated from different
parts of Senegal.
We have been successful for many years in returning some of these children to their home communities and reintegrating them safely with their families. We have also made progress in spreading information in these communities about the inhuman conditions of slavery that these boys are subjected to, with the objective that families will be less likely to entrust their boys to marabouts in distant cities.
It is much more difficult, however, to provide such support to boys trafficked from neighboring countries. Of the 1,014 talibé children originating from these countries who were registered over the ten months, 593 came from Guinea-Bissau, 277 from Gambia and 131 from Guinea. While we have had some success reintegrating children in these countries, this is the exception (two remarkable exceptions, Sulayman and Tijan, were presented in a previous report”).
An enormous step was taken this fall in changing this situation. The Gambian ambassador to Senegal, Hadrammeh Sidibeh, visited Maison de la Gare to investigate the situation of Gambian children sent to Saint Louis as talibés. This was the first time that a senior representative of a neighboring country has visited Maison de la Gare to investigate the situation of their children living in local daaras. As reported by a local news outlet, saintlouisnews.sn, this visit marked an important victory for Maison de la Gare’s team and particularly for its president Issa Kouyaté.
Ambassador Sidibeh met with local marabouts who had come from Gambia and with large numbers of talibé children in Maison de la Gare’s center who had also come from Gambia. He listened to the them speak about the problems that they encounter and explored possible solutions with them. And he discussed at length with Issa and his team the barriers impeding the return of children to their families in Gambia. As an outcome of this discussion, he invited Issa to visit Gambia to collaborate on developing better strategies for facilitating and supporting the return of these children.
Issa accepted this invitation and followed up a few weeks later with a trip to Churchill’s Town, close to the capital city of Banjul. He met with religious leaders and government officials, exploring ways to facilitate the return of talibé children. The community of Churchill’s Town committed to allowing a local day care center to be used as a place of refuge for returned children who do not have stable families. And progress was made in setting up a network ready to work with Maison de la Gare to support the reintegration of children with their families where this is possible.
While only a beginning, we are very encouraged by the possibilities for collaborating with government officials and local communities in Gambia and in the other countries from which the talibé children are trafficked. This will open the door to a better future for many more talibé children.