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Children draw at a centre in Benin. ©Tdh / Camail

Destination Unknown campaign member Terre des Hommes, Enda and the African Movement of Working Children and Youth are working on a joint child protection programme in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, known as the CORAL project. Its focus is to enhance protection of children on the move and the three organisations decided to start their intervention by first listening to the children themselves to better understand their situation, the risks and violations they face, as well as the opportunities and solutions children have found.

The research focused on the perspectives of children and youth and engaged a total of 552 children and young people and 46 adults. Qualitative participatory methods were used to bring their perspectives into light in a short span of time. Drawing and role plays about vulnerabilities, safety and well-being, and aspirations for the future were used in conjunction with focus group discussions. A ‘Photovoice’ exercise where children take pictures of things affecting their daily lives, followed by individual interviews, offered insights into young migrants’ day-to-day lives and their hopes for the near future. Semi-structured in-depth interviews provided examples of fuller life stories and perspectives on how families and significant relatives shape children and young people’s pathways.

What did the children say?

Firstly, most of the children and young people had migrated from nearby places, mainly from rural to urban areas and sometimes to the neighbouring country. Though most of the children migrated for work, their motivations went far beyond financial reasons. Many children spoke about their desire to grow, learn, have an adventure and contribute to their family. In fact, the average age of the child migrants interviewed was 15 years, which is also the age that children start transiting to adulthood and search for increased autonomy and responsibilities.

Secondly, children and young people spoke about their situation identifying the various factors of their vulnerability. Lack of adequate family support was often mentioned by children as something that impacted them a lot. But many of them also spoke with enthusiasm about the support received, especially from siblings and peers. Younger migrants supported older siblings by providing childcare or pooling all or some of their income, and both older and younger siblings helped pay school fees.

Children and young people also provided useful information on how they secure work. In most of the cases, it still went through brokers and traditional placement practices for which children had both negative and positive experiences to share. The risk of exploitation and abuse was identified as being high when for example money was paid to the broker, who was then responsible for forwarding it to the child’s parents or saving it on behalf of the child until the end of his or her ‘contract’ which would last several years. For the children, this made them doubly dependent on both the broker and the employer.

Apprenticeships, on the other hand were considered as the most desired routes out of poverty for children and their families. Despite some recognised risks for exploitation under these mechanisms too, in general children considered them as an excellent mechanism for skills transfer and that could enable them to transition into a stable future profession.

What next?

These are just a few of the rich findings of this study, which concludes with a number of important recommendations. Currently, Terre des Hommes, Enda and the African Movement of Working Children and Youth continue to work with young people to transform these recommendations into actions that will benefit the children and youth affected. Alfred Santos, the Coral Project Coordinator emphasises that “For us, this is just the start of a long collaboration with the children and young people in enhancing the protection of their rights.”

You can read the full baseline research report in English here.

The research brief is available in English here.

Vous pouvez lire le étude de base en français ici.

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