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Togo: Chinea, 15 years old, trafficked and abused

© UNICEF/Togo/2009/Bonnaud
Chinea is a 14 years old girl who has been trafficked, exploited and sexually abused. In the Terre Des Hommes Oasis Center at Lome, a partner supported by UNICEF, the young girl benefits from health, education and psychological care.

On November 20th, we celebrate anniversary of the Convention on the rights of the child. This portrait is part of a series that shows progress and challenges in advancing children’s rights in a region where some of the lowest human development indicators in the world are found.

Lomé, Togo, November 2009 - "Who am I? I am Nigerian. I am fourteen. A woman took me from Nigeria to Ghana. She said she would put me to school but she did not. I had to clean the house, wash all family’s clothes and sell rice in the big market of Accra" said Chinea to the social worker of the Oasis centre, a shelter for exploited, abused and trafficked children in Lomé supported by UNICEF.

"I stayed 8 months in Ghana. Then I escaped. Because the woman’s husband forced me to sleep with him… and they did not want me to go to school" complains the young girl. In Togo an estimated 29% of children from 5 to 14 years old are used for economic and domestic activities that are considered harmful to their development. "It was not that easy to escape, underlines Chinea. I had first to steal the house’s key and then to sneak it out to a person outside because they used to lock up me inside the house!" she tells.

Fortunately, Chinea succeeded to escape from this house where she was reduced to nothing more than slavery.

Freed, she went directly to a police station and told her story. Then she was placed for a few weeks in the Shelter for abused children in Accra where she received psychological support and she was able to attend school.

"Repatriating children to their country is not easy at all", says Koffi Kpatcha, the Oasis Centre’s social worker in Lomé.

This is why the Ghanaian institution sends us Chinea because we have a good experience in child trafficking and the repatriation process".

Chinea benefits from health and psychological care. "And what is better here: I am back to school again" adds the young girl.

"Children must know what is forbidden!"
The circumstances of Chinea’s departure are not clear. "She might have been sold" states Koffi, the social worker. "Because she reported that the woman was talking regularly by phone with her mother about sending money".

Chinea added "My mom knew about my departure. She assured me that this woman would put me to school… What I want today is to go back to my mom and my 12 brothers and sisters in Aiba, my village in Nigeria".

Legal and social services are working to send the young girl back home as soon as possible.

"Every child must know what is forbidden. If there is an international convention to protect children that exists, I would like politics to write: that children must have food every day, must go to school, have games and… have chocolate whenever they want!" laughs Chinea.

"Well", says Koffi, "all these rights are ensured in the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) except for eating chocolate. But maybe for the 20th birthday of the CRC they should think about it!" he smiles.

In Togo an estimated 29% of children from 5 to 14 years old are used for economic and domestic activities that are considered harmful to their development.

Many children fall victim of internal and international trafficking and sexual abuse.

In the recent years trafficking of women and children has increased both internally and from Togo to the neighboring countries (including Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Benin and Nigeria).

The most common targets are young girls from the countryside, aged 8 or older, who have never been to or leave school to find work.

Togolese National Commission for social reinsertion of children victims of trafficking reports 264 children victims (158 girls and 106 boys) repatriated in 2009.

With support of UNICEF and other partners the Government of Togo launched in early 2009 a free child helpline (Allo 111) for reporting and response to child rights violations located in Lomé.

The child helpline receive an average of 600 calls a day and about 700 cases of exploited and abused children have been reported and properly followed up, thanks to the project.
  
By Hadrien Bonnaud

 

 
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