|© UNICEF Botswana/2007|
|Participants from the children's forum on child trafficking held in the Chobe District of Kasane, Botswana.|
By Bashi Letsididi
KASANE, Botswana, 23 July 2007 – Last month, about 25 children from Kasane took part in a forum to discuss the issue of combating child trafficking with their local community leaders. The youth discussion panel, which was organised by UNICEF Botswana, was held in commemoration of this year’s Day of the African Child, of which child trafficking is the main focus.
During the forum, several children recounted how they had been denied the opportunity to get an education because they were being used as cheap labour. Tlogelang Seroka told the heartbreaking tale of a childhood friend who was sent away to herd cattle.
“He is paid with food and has received no education. When we write him letters he cannot read them,” said Seroka. “He tried starting school but was told by the very same people keeping him at the cattle post that he is too old for school.”
'Protect us from child trafficking'
It is believed that girls are at particular risk for being trafficked. Oteng Mogotsi, a pupil at Plateau Primary School, said that trafficked girls face the danger of being used for both labour and sexual exploitation. Early marriages, which are common in the region, were also identified as another problem.
“Protect us from child trafficking because it puts us at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS,” pleaded 16-year-old Sharon Phillips.
|© UNICEF Botswana/2007|
|Children from the forum were asked to relate their views on the 2007 Day of the African Child theme, combatting child trafficking.|
Identifying the root cause
The students were asked what they believe are the causes of child trafficking. At least two groups were identified as culprits, including businesspeople and parents or guardians who do not value education. The youths agreed that parents who have no education themselves would be more inclined to send their children away.
Thabo Tuelo from the Kasane Youth Centre said it is common for children as young as 14-years-old to be withdrawn from school by their parents and sent to work on farms. One boy recalled how his grandmother used to send him away to look after cattle. In return, his grandmother would be paid with a pail of milk.
Student Phomolo Baipidi suggested that the President of Botswana should stress the value of education by using himself as an example and imploring parents to give their children an opportunity to attend school.
Two similar children’s forums were later held in the villages of Gantsi and Serowe in order to open a dialogue between children and their local leaders. Helping communities understand why every child deserves an education is an important step in putting an end to child trafficking.