News / Africa

Senegal Child Help Hotline Offers Safety for Victims of Abuse

Children at Ginddi Center for children in difficulty in  Dakar
Children at Ginddi Center for children in difficulty in Dakar
Amanda Fortier

A child-help hotline in Senegal provides around-the-clock counseling and protection for young people suffering physical or emotional harm. The free phone service is working to help vulnerable children from across West Africa.

At Dakar’s Ginddi Center for children in difficulty there has not been electricity for most of the week, something of the norm in recent months in Senegal. But there is one machine that is constantly working, regardless of power cuts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is the center's child-help hotline that began last December as a free service to help boys and girls who are in danger, victims of abuse, or living on the street.

The center gets an average of twenty calls per day. Most come from people wanting information about the center - a temporary shelter with a maximum capacity of 70 that also includes a health clinic and learning center. Some of the calls come from kids themselves, a vast majority of whom are boys, anywhere between five and 18 years old, who have run away, some from as far off as Niger and Cameroon and others from right here in Dakar.

A place of refuge

Fifteen-year-old Ibrahima Dia is one such case. Last year, he left his home in Tivaoune, a religious community about 100 kilometers northeast of the capital. He was heading for Dakar to find another family member. But Dia has poor eyesight and soon found himself living alone on the streets. A member of the Ginddi Center’s counseling team picked him up and brought him in to stay.

Dia says he comes from a poor family that could no longer look after him. Here he has been able to benefit from the classes. At the health clinic he gets regular treatment for his eyes and is now waiting for a new pair of prescription glasses. Dia says he has also had the chance to learn things here that he has not been taught before - practical things such as silk-screening, and social skills such as how to behave outside the home.

Over the last year, Dia has repeatedly come and gone from the Ginddi center. It is his refuge - a place with an open door policy that provides unconditional support, individual and group counseling and even extracurricular sports and cultural activities. When Dia is not living there, he is back in Tivaoune living with his grandmother, but calls the hotline nearly every day just to speak with one of the six phone operators.

Patience required

Khady Diallo is a trained social worker and leads the Ginddi Center’s team of telephone operators. Khady says the first thing they do as hotline operators is find out the child's name - even if it is only a fake one - and then secondly, to locate them. It is very difficult at the beginning of a phone call to gain the caller's trust. Khady says sometimes a child will call in several times and just keep hanging up. The operators have to be very patient and have a strong capacity to listen and try to understand them.

The hotline is nationwide, but the Ginddi Center lacks the personnel and infrastructure to advertise their service or provide immediate on-the-ground help when a child in need calls from a far-off village. During Senegal’s two biggest Islamic events, Gamou and Magal, the center’s single phone line is flooded with calls from parents and marabouts, or spiritual leaders, whose children have gotten lost or simply run away. Over half the cases the Ginndi Center deals with occur during these two religious gatherings.

Sarata Ly Diallo, director at the Ginddi Center, has lobbied hard to get the “116” hotline started in Senegal.

Ly Diallo says today their big challenge is to fight against children begging in the street.  They receive a lot of calls from talibés, or Koranic students who left their daaras, or Koranic schools. Their marabouts may have been forcing them to beg. Diallo says once these talibés get to the Center they usually do not want to leave. And these cases are becoming more and more common.

Too much freedom?

Stories of cruelty and neglect towards talibés in Senegal have become increasingly publicized. A recent case in the local media told of two eight-year-old talibés who were so badly beaten and burned by their marabouts that they were hospitalized for three weeks. The Ginndi Center’s hotline hopes to offer a solution for these victims, especially when they have nowhere else to turn and before it is too late.

Khady says when they first started the hotline there were a lot of marabouts calling in to say the center was fighting against Islam by forbidding daaras to exist. Khady says the center does believe that children should be learning the Koran, but only in good conditions.

There are even some parents who say the Center gives kids too much freedom and that it should not be forbidding parents to beat their children.  Khady says that while it is important to reprimand children - whether it is a parent, teacher or marabout - there are limits.  She says the Center is not here to fight against religion, but quite the opposite, to fight for the regulation of daaras and against fake schools.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid