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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                                                                                       

Republic of Senegal

After seeing its economy contract by 2.1% in 1993, Senegal made an important turnaround, thanks to the reform program, with real growth in GDP averaging over 5% annually during 1995-2008. Annual inflation had been pushed down to the single digits.

High unemployment, however, continues to prompt illegal migrants to flee Senegal in search of better job opportunities in Europe.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Senegal.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


A Senegalese beggar unmasked

Hilary Heuler, The Christian Science Monitor, Dakar Senegal, September 15, 2008

[accessed 17 July 2011]

For centuries, children in this deeply Muslim country have been sent away to religious schools (daaras) for an Islamic education. It’s a practice common throughout West Africa. But in modern Senegal – where most talibés are dressed in rags, visibly malnourished, and almost completely uneducated – it’s clear that the system is no longer working in their favor.

They stalk pedestrians, beg money from passing cars, and scurry between traffic lanes for any spare change thrown from the windows. Hungry and exhausted, many spend their days sleeping on the streets. A few are orphans, but the majority are handed over to marabouts by their own parents. Most families in Senegal hold marabouts in high esteem, consulting them on everything from spiritual to political matters, and a marabout’s influence over his following is profound.

“They are students, but they are abandoned. No one takes care of them,” says Mouhamed Chérif Diop, director of a program that helps talibés through the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Tostan. “Their lives are very hard. They can’t find food, often they can’t find clothes.”

Sexually active street children increasingly vulnerable to HIV

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN PlusNews, Dakar, 31 October 2006

[accessed 10 March 2015]

One sees eight-year-old children who already have several male and female partners who are older than they are," said Adjiratou Sow Diallo Diouf, author of a 2005 study on the impact of HIV/AIDS on Dakar's estimated 6,000 street children.

The 30 children, aged between 8 and 17, Diouf questioned for the study revealed sexual relations that were both homosexual and heterosexual and rarely protected, leaving them highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

Samu Social Senegal Is Helping Children Off The Streets

Franklin Nossiter, Borgen Project, 20 September 2020

[accessed 6 April 2021]

To be sure, there are many good marabouts in Senegal who do not exploit their charges and faithfully impart their knowledge of the Quran. That being said, Human Rights Watch estimates that over 100,000 talibé must beg for food and money every day in Senegal. Beyond that, it is thought that many talibé who remain in the daara are subject to extreme abuse, malnutrition and lack of medical care. The problem has reached epidemic proportions, with President Mack Sall vowing to “remove children from the streets.” However, the extreme power and influence of many marabouts have hampered government efforts.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Senegal’s Street Children Among Those Most at Risk for COVID-19

VOA News, 9 April 2020

[accessed 8 February 2023]

Niokhobaye Diouf, director of a child protection committee with Senegal’s Ministry of Family, said Senegalese authorities have a coronavirus emergency plan for street children. Dakar has made 13 educational social centers available, said Diouf, as well as other community centers. They are talking about a capacity of 1,500 beds, he said.

Keeping the talibes off the street to avoid coronavirus is key, said Amara Thiam, a nurse with For a Childhood in Senegal.   Thiam said infection in one talibe would be a disaster because the child's daara, maybe all daaras, would be subject to infection. When the children go out on the street, he said, they interact a lot with each other.

For a Childhood in Senegal also ran a center that offered classrooms, playrooms, showers, a bakery and a vegetable garden, making it a haven for talibes. But now the center, like much of Dakar, is closed to prevent spreading the virus.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 21 December 2010]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Most trafficking victims are young males forced into exploitive begging for Koranic teachers.  These boys, known as talibés, spend the majority of the day begging for their Koranic teachers and are vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation.  Domestically, some Koranic teachers bring children from rural areas to Senegal’s major cities, holding them under conditions of involuntary servitude.  Children from Guinea and Guinea-Bissau can also be found begging in Senegal’s streets as part of this exploitive practice.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - Since 2003, Senegal’s Family Ministry has operated the “Ginddi Center” in Dakar to receive and care for street children, including trafficking victims.  Pursuant to Senegal’s 2004 anti-trafficking accord with Mali, trafficked Malian children are kept at the Ginddi Center prior to repatriation.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN - The law provides for free education, and education policy declares education to be compulsory for children ages 6 to 16; however, many children did not attend school for lack of resources or available facilities. Students must pay for their own books, uniforms, and other school supplies. Due to government, NGO and international donor efforts, school enrollment reached 82.5 percent during the year. In fact, President Wade established "Places for the Little Ones" throughout the country to serve as pre-kindergartens for children. He also encouraged increased school enrollment. However, the highest level of education attained by most children is elementary school.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – According to the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the country had 100 thousand talibe boys and 10 thousand street children.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - 2006 [DOC]

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 29 September 2006$FILE/G0644838.doc

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[58] While noting the steps taken by the State party to address the rights and needs of street children, the Committee remains concerned about the increasing number of street children and begging children in the State party.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - 1995

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 27 November 1995

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[14] The absence of compulsory and free education at the primary level raises deep concern.

Lives of Street Children in Senegal to Improve through New Campaign

The World Bank News, February 13, 2007,,contentMDK:21218879~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html

[accessed 21 December 2010]

CHILD TRAFFICKERS TARGETED - Poor parents who cannot afford to care for their children often entrust them to religious leaders known as marabous to educate them and teach them the Koran.  Child traffickers posing as marabous will often kidnap the children from villages and take them to Dakar where they are forced to beg for handouts in the streets. Under threat of beatings, the children must give the money to their “masters.”  Leaders of Senegal’s religious communities attending the Partnership launch denounced this practice, lamenting that the country’s noble tradition of teaching young boys the Koran has been so distorted and exploited.  Despite an impressive body of research on street children prepared with the support of NGOs, UN agencies, and the World Bank, past efforts have been unable to put an end to this trend.

For its part, the Government has enacted laws to protect families and children but they are not enforced. Meanwhile, the general public has come to accept the sight of boys as young as 4 years old begging on city streets. Many unwittingly encourage the situation by giving the children money, food or other small gifts. However, the practice of begging is in itself dangerous as many children disrupt traffic and get into accidents.

PILOT PROJECT - Over the next 18 months, the Partnership will implement a pilot project in Kolda, Tamba and Matam––the three main cities from which the majority of street children originate––to bring some 500 children back home or place those who cannot go home in appropriate structures, and to rehabilitate a dozen centers for children.

West African Street Kids Face Bleak Future

Naomi Schwarz, Thies Senegal, US Fed News Service, Including US State News, 19 June 2007

[accessed 3 January 2017]

Ignace Thomas, another volunteer, says drug and alcohol habits are some of the reasons these youths ended up on the streets to begin with.  Their families would punish and yell at them for drinking too much, he says, and the boys did not want to be told what to do, so they would leave.  In other cases, he says, there are family problems that lead the youth to leave.

SENEGAL: Why the`talibe’ problem won’t go away

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Dakar, 3 January 2008

[accessed 10 March 2015]

These boys are `talibes’, followers of a `marabout’, to whom they were entrusted by their families to learn the Koran. But their `marabout’ - like many others who are caretakers of an estimated 10,000 children in Dakar - does not have the means to support them.  Thousands of `talibes’ spend hours each day walking the city in search of scraps of food and begging for money to meet a daily quota exacted by their `marabouts’, or face beatings, talibe children told IRIN.  Often with ripped clothes, barefoot and filthy, the children move alone or in packs. Many never learn the Koran, officials from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) say, and rarely do they attain adequate schooling that will lead to jobs when they become adults.

Marching for street kids

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Dakar, 20 April 2007

[accessed 10 March 2015]

The United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) in 2004 estimated that there are up to 100,000 child beggars in Senegal, constituting one percent of the country's 11.4 million people. It is unclear how many of them are talibes.

"We study the Koran from the morning up to midday. Afterwards the kids go out in the streets up to 3 p.m. in search of something to eat and then resume studying, which takes us up to 4 p.m., after which time we go back out to find something to eat," said Amadou, a pseudonym.

Senegal seeks better life for beggar boys

Rose Skelton, Reuters, DAKAR, Nov 8, 2006

[accessed 17 July 2011]

TRADITION - A 2004 estimate by the United Nations children's fund UNICEF indicated up to 100,000 children, mostly talibe, were begging across Senegal, representing nearly 1 percent of the population.  Aid groups say nearly all the hundreds of children sleeping rough in Dakar's streets have run away from daaras.

Success Stories

Global Fund for Children

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 July 2011]

ABDUL, SYNAPSE NETWORK CENTER, DAKAR SENEGAL - With limited access to education or training and few opportunities for employment, an increasing number of Senegal’s young people join the growing pool of unemployed or underemployed youth who have few positive options available to them. Like Abdul, an increasing number of young people turn to life on the streets. These youth, most of them boys, grow up in the shadow of drugs, diseases, delinquency, violence, and street gangs. They often resort to begging and working at an early age and thus expose themselves to various forms of exploitation. More and more of these boys are entering daaras, schools that generally offer a narrow education based on extreme religious teachings. In many cases these boys, known as talibes, do not receive the education they are promised and instead spend much of each day on the street, working, begging, or stealing money to support their teachers.

West Africa: Children in danger: Living on the street

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, St-Louis, 16 June 2006

[accessed 10 March 2015]

FORCED TO LEAVE THE VIOLENCE - It was because of another older brother that Ale left in the first place. When his father died, and with his mother gone to live in St-Louis, he was left in the village to work with his brother in the rice-fields.

“Whenever he came home and saw me and my friends and brothers playing instead of working in the fields, he would beat us,” Ale said. The boy ran away from the village three times to his mother’s small house in town, but each time she brought him back.

So in 2004 he fled as far as he could go, joining the tens of millions of other children living on streets worldwide.

Information about Street Children - Senegal [DOC]

This report is taken from “A Civil Society Forum for Francophone Africa on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children”, 2-5 June 2004, Senegal

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 2 October 2011]

A child normally has references within his or her family through which they build their own identity as adults, but as soon as s/he starts to feel ill at ease within the household, these ties break and the child starts to move away from the unit in which s/he no longer feels comfortable. The majority migrate to the urban areas to survive, and become street children.

For The Smile Of A Child

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, Thies Senegal

[accessed 17 July 2011]

Some street children experience family rupture. Others, called “talibés” (children entrusted by their parents to a wise man who insures their religious education), live in “dahras”, generally pitiful schools of the Koran. There, most of the day they beg to earn their living and that of the wise man’s. The last group of children is made up of adolescents called “fackmans” who, under the influence of drugs, become violent and have broken all family ties.

Senegal Ministry Sets Plan To Reach Thousands Of Street Children

By Rowland Croucher and others, 6 June 2003 Update from HCJB World Radio

[accessed 17 July 2011]

[scroll down]

SENEGAL MINISTRY SETS PLAN TO REACH THOUSANDS OF STREET CHILDREN - This outreach began when the leader felt a burden for the more than 300,000 street children of Senegal. Often poverty-stricken parents turn their children over to Muslim marabouts (spiritual guides), thinking that they are pleasing God and providing a better life for their children. However, the marabouts abuse their wards, often forcing them to beg on the streets for their own gain.

Street Children In Senegal: Awareness Raising In Europe, Intervention On The Ground

Global Youth Action Network GYAN France

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 July 2011]

Children of Senegal's neighboring countries such as Mali, as well as children of Senegal's poorest regions, are often sent by their parents to religious leaders who commit to care for the children, and give them a Koranic education.

Children in Danger

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 1990 Apr 3 -- PMID: 12283241

[accessed 17 July 2011]

The principal themes that emerge from this interview are that in Senegal street children can be rehabilitated and educated to play effective roles in society. Differences should be made between street children who are categorized as inadaptable, the delinquents, and those who are morally dangerous.

Senegal To Organize Seminar On Begging By Street Kids

[Last access date unavailable]

She said there was a distinction between the talibés (pupils in Koranic schools) and other kids who begged in the streets, adding that there were some 500,000 street children in Senegal, including those from Mali, Guinea Bissau and Gambia.

Exit the players

Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 599, 15 - 21 August 2002

[accessed 2 October 2011]

[accessed 3 January 2017]

Curiously, the other show, Enfants de nuit (Children of the Night), was also spun out darkness, absence, helplessness and despair. An exhibition-performance devised by 18 young artists aged between nine and 25 who come from the ranks of the poorest, most deprived and abused street children in Senegal, and who live or have passed through the Man-Keneen-Ki home-cum-art school in Dakar.

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