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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora