Protecting children on the move in West Africa
In West Africa, more and more children migrate to escape poverty. Around 90% of them stay within the region and move towards cities and agricultural or production sites such as gold mines or cacao plantations. Even though migration can constitute a work opportunity, it puts children at risk of exploitation, abuse and trafficking. We respond to the protection needs of children along their routes from their origin to their destination.
A key youth migration route
Our new project tackles the situation of unaccompanied minors migrating between the Ivory Coast and Nigeria via Ghana, Togo and Benin. This coastal road along the five countries’ urbanised areas, between Abidjan and Lagos, attracts a majority of young migrants looking for work opportunities. The CORAL project (for Corridor Abidjan-Lagos) is financed by the European Union for the time frame of 2017 to 2020. Since January 2017, Tdh has been proposing a project with the same approach for the protective support of migrant children in Burkina Faso through Hope Points, which are reception, listening and support centres set up along their journey.
Partnering with a local movement
Thanks to the collaboration with the AMWCY (African Movement of Working Children and Youth), which is active in around 20 countries and spans the five countries the project tackles, we can now better respond to the regional migration phenomena and protect a high number of migrating children at risk.
Protecting migrant children where they are
Moussa Harouna, communications officer from AMWCY explains: “The specific objective of this project is to accompany and to protect the children on the move from their country of origin to their destination.”
From their departure:
We support communities in the places children decide to depart from. We inform children and their families about the risks of early and dangerous migration and orient them towards alternative opportunities such as education or vocational training in their countries. We also improve the livelihoods of families with income generating activities. As a result, fewer children take the risk of dangerous migration at an early age for economic reasons.
Along their migration route:
The children who decide to depart are protected on their journeys. We train community actors and children’s groups on the animation and management of safe spaces and on how to understand the needs of migrating children. In these spaces, children are advised on the risks they could encounter and informed about the available support services along their journeys. This empowers them to protect themselves better. Moussa explains: “We don’t want to act and decide in their stead. We would rather like to help them act, plan and think about their future – so they know what they want to do and then undertake it with our support.”
At their destination:
Once they arrive in their destination, we improve their living conditions with the referral to vocational training or education. The ones who decide to return to their home country are supported in their reintegration.
Advocating for a protection network
On a larger scale, we work for the integration of child protection in migration policy and national and regional legislation. We also train protection actors to give technical assistance to authorities in that matter so that political decisions take into account the vulnerabilities of migrating children. For ensuring that children have access to protective mechanisms in their areas of origin, transit and destination, we bring together community and institutional actors for a better coordination of child protection mechanisms.
Avoiding theft thanks to a digital savings system
In parallel with the CORAL project, Tdh, the Ecobank Group and the Movement for Young African Workers (MAEJT) are innovating with the SaVa (Safe Savings) project in Togo. Child and adolescent migrants living in street situations are faced with problems of insecurity such as being robbed of the money they have earned by small jobs – that they need to survive another day. The SaVa project allows children to keep their savings safe thanks to a banking application. To make it easy for them to deposit and withdraw money, an XPRESS ECOBANK point (a neighbourhood micro-agency) is installed in the Hope Points set up by Tdh.
Our goal is a holistic protection network for children, which reduces their vulnerability related to migration, addresses their needs and respects their rights, no matter where they decide to be.