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in Senegal

The Belgian Deputy Prime Minister visits the United Nations in Senegal

West Africa is affected by a large number of security threats, which often see women being the first victims. This population is one of the most vulnerable, especially in the case of human trafficking that often results in forced sexual exploitation of women and young girls. They are lured by false promises of employment by traffickers who move them away from home and force them into prostitution to pay off their debts. Therefore, the sexual and reproductive health is of utmost importance. Particularly when the authorities tend to consider the victims as perpetrators of prostitution and not as victims of exploitation.

In this context, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, M. Alexander De Croo, who further acts as Minister for Cooperation and Development of the Kingdom of Belgium, came on mission to Senegal between April 26 and April 27. His visit occurred following the international conference "She Decides" which took place in January 2017. This conference was conducted in response to the recent decline in resources that are allocated to development by international partners, in particular for sexual and reproductive health. After visting Benin, the Minister accompanied by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, singer Axelle Red, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, Goedele Liekens, and various media representatives from Belgium, led his delegation to Dakar to meet with UNICEF, UNFPA and UNODC agencies.
After a briefing at the United Nations Information Center (UNIC), which took place on April 26, the delegation visited the implementing partners. The briefing focused on the challenges and main interventions of the three agencies on sexual and reproductive health, as well as on the protection of women and children from abuse, violence and trafficking in persons.

UNODC, UNFPA and UNICEF work with implementing partners in Senegal, which provide direct assistance to the most vulnerable. UNODC supports several associations working with women victim of gender-based violence and trafficking in persons. In the framework of the Regional Strategy for Combatting Trafficking in Persons and Illicit Smuggling in Migrants (2015-2020), UNODC has identified as a priority the direct assistance to victims of trafficking in persons and to vulnerable migrants. During its visit, the Belgian delegation chose to meet with the implementing partners so as to measure the impact of the activities supported by the United Nations.

On April 26, 2017, the Minister first visited "La Maison Rose", a safe-house where dozens of young women, victim of violence or rape, are living with their children. The shelter was founded by "Univers’elles", an association supported by UNICEF and UNODC, which assists these young women and their children. It was founded 8 years ago and now forms "a reconstituted family" for women that have been the victims of rape, as declared by the founder of the "Maison", Mona Chasseiro. Finally, the organizational plan of the Departmental Committee for the Protection of Children (CDPE) was presented to the delegation, which gave the opportunity to demonstrate to them that the association is working closely with Guediawaye and Pikine’s local stakkeholders, as well as allowed them to meet the men and women involved in the support of victims.

During his visit, the Minister also chose to meet with Samu Social, an other UNODC implementation partner, which is an international organization fighting exclusion in all its forms. In Senegal, this organization helps street children, that have been victim of abuse and exploitation by forced begging. Indeed, tens of thousands of young boys commonly called Talibés are forced to beg through Senegal, as part of their Islamic studies in schools (called daaras) administered by Koranic masters. All the work of the Samu Social aims at getting these children off the streets in order to help them be reunited with their families and communities.

As soon as they arrived at the shelter in Ouakam, the residents of the center, children between the age of 5 to 15 years old, welcomed the delegation with songs and after visiting the premises, the delegation began a discussion with the members of the team. The Samu Social insisted on the ill-treatment inflicted on Talibés by some Daraas chiefs, and specifically highlighted the need for psychological assistance of these children. Indeed, most of them have been traumatized and are now affected by a phenomenon of paradoxical over-adaptation to the hostile environment of life in the streets. The director of the Samu Social, Isabelle De Guillebon, acknowledged that the situation in Senegal has evolved over the past years, however she also expressed the need for a stronger and lasting political-will in order to put an end to the issue of forced begging and street children.

The day ended with a speech by M. Alexander de Croo at the reception at the Belgian Embassy in Dakar, where Coumba Gawlo, Goodwill Ambassador of UNODC, was also in attendance and shared her recent experience encountering women in the informal mining sites of Kedougou, that have been victim of trafficking and forced into prostitution.

Finally, in April 2017, UNODC established new partnerships with four organizations and structures specialized in the identification and assistance to victims of trafficking. These are Univers’elles, Empire des Enfants, the CEGID and Action Enfance, which will each receive between 30,000 and 40,000 USD for projects lasting one year.

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