|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo with a group of children at the Magone Centre in Porto Novo, Benin. The UNICEF-sponsored centre provides shelter and formal and vocational training to vulnerable children.|
By Gisèle Langue Menye
COTONOU, Benin, 31 December 2009 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo made a two-day visit to Benin, her native country, to witness first-hand the UNICEF supported programmes that are helping vulnerable children there.
In Cotonou, Ms. Kidjo visited 99 children at the ‘Black Style’ hair dressing centre, where she paid tribute to the NGOs that are working with the Government and with UNICEF to implement career-training activities.
“Your education is a priority,” she said. “This is the opportunity that enables you to build up your one life. It gives you the autonomy you need to become a responsible adult.”
At Hindé, a shelter run by the Salesian Sisters, Ms. Kidjo met with many children - including 72 girls who have been victims of economic exploitation and child trafficking. Twelve of these girls had been excluded from formal education, but are now attending accelerated courses and getting a second chance at an education.
At the Minor Protection Brigade – where nearly 1,000 children were sheltered in 2009 – Ms. Kidjo met with Commissaire Tokpanou, a passionate defender of children’s rights.
|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo with students at the Hinde Home in Cotonou, Benin. Run by Salesian Sisters, the UNICEF-sponsored centre provides support and training to victims of abuse and child trafficking.|
The centre hosts vulnerable children – from those abandoned in the streets to those that were victims of trafficking. Though in desperate need of more social workers, the centre remains open.
In Porto Novo, Ms. Kidjo visited children in Don Bosco’s centre where 137 boys live. Many are victims of violence, abuse, economic exploitation and/or child trafficking. The centre provides accelerated education and vocational training to prepare these children for a brighter future.
At each stop on the visit, children described their painful experiences to Ms. Kidjo, all wondering why life had been so harsh for them, yet all still hopeful about their future.
During her visit, Ms. Kidjo learned about the innovative dual education approach.
This innovative programme enrols older children aged 14 to 17 in three-year apprenticeship training programmes – in hair dressing, vehicle and motorcycle maintenance, and tailoring. The Government supports 90 per cent of the fees, and UNICEF contributes 10 per cent.
To date, over a thousand children have benefitted from this programme.
Concluding her visit, Ms. Kidjo called for “the responsibility of parents, families and the State, to fulfil the right for each Beninese child to have a birth certificate, to be educated and to be safe from child trafficking.”