Togo: The kids from the Grand Market in Lomé
In Togo, as in many other countries, hundreds of children from the villages migrate towards the large cities to seek their fortunes and a better living. But what they so often find there is a situation of vulnerability, a lack of security, the absence of healthcare, food, a roof over their heads, leisure activities, schooling; and they are exposed to many kinds of violence. According to a survey carried out by Terre des hommes, 75% of the kids in the Grand Market in Lomé work full time as an itinerant sales force, exploited many hours a day for a meagre reward.
Children’s work in the Great Market in Lomé
Terre des hommes has been here working since 2005 to help ‘mobile’ children: migrants from the countryside seeking work in the capital city, Lomé. In 2011, the delegation carried out a survey on 1,208 youngsters in the Grand Market in Lomé, the principal location for child labour. 75% of them work there full time. Half of them are under 14 and do not go to school. Three quarters of the latter do not live with their parents: one in four lives on the street, in the compound of the Grand Market or in shelters – i.e. exposed to conditions of extreme vulnerability. The other kids, who live in houses, are mostly engaged as domestics for these households, and combine their jobs at the Grand Market with daytime housework.
Protect migrant children
So as to fight against the risks of ill-treatment to these youngsters, the Togo government has started a process with the protection of child rights as one of its priorities. However, despite the legislative system; despite the large number of participants; despite the numerous programmes to combat prostitution and other programmes to help child victims of mistreatment, the situation remains extremely worrying. The Terre des hommes project consists to protect migrant children. Migration – can sometimes generate beneficial effects for the youngsters, but can also lead to exploitation, trafficking, ill-treatment and abuse. The goal is to guarantee the children protection, whenever needed, wherever they are. All the youngster’s circle should be involved (parents, guardians, employers, landlords, communities, authorities, etc.), in such a way as to create a network which can suggest alternatives to migration and also to look after child victims of exploitation.
This project is now established in the two quarters of the town where the majority of the working kids live, Abové and Bè-Hédzé Kpota. The Togo government and members of the communities have given their agreement and shown their determination to set up programmes to protect the youngsters. With the support of Terre des hommes, the communities and the State, after having been given training in child rights and protection, are now themselves in charge of organising these activities and handling them successfully. Today, psychosocial activities are already offered to the children. These will enable them to access leisure activities and also to be a place for talks with their parents, families and communities. This is the first step to a complete offer of services for children and adolescents: formal schooling, literacy courses, job training, establishment of birth certificates, prevention, listening, mediation, and assistance.