AFRICA/BENIN - Little girls in Cotonou: education changed the lives of many little girls

Saturday, 13 March 2004

Cotonou (Fides Service) - The number of little girls at the Baraque Rouge, at the centre of the market in Cotonou in Benin, continues to grow. They are learning to be hairdressers and cooks and the programme is funded by the Italian province of Bolzano to support the rehabilitation and promotion of little sellers of vegetables and all kinds of wares.
Sister Maria Antonietta Marchese, of the Sisters of Mary Auxiliatrix (FMA), has followed a project for two years which has changed the life of many little girls at the great market. “I am making frequent visits villages to help return the girls to their families. Travel is difficult but it is worth it. Our girls would prefer to stay with us. Since August we have had about 350.
Those who may be sold if we return to them to their families stay with us and take our professional training classes. Reflecting together in the community we found a formula which seems to be positive: we are looking for funds to finance hospitality and professional activities. We plan to start producing soap which we will use for the washing in the community and the rest we will sell. We hope also to start breeding fish to sell with the help of an Italian association. We are in contact other centres which ask us to make more places available. I was pleased to hear that for a Centre for long term formation of little girls, people asked for nuns to run the school, people for whom, education is a vocation not only a job.
A few years ago, about 116 girls aged 6 to 8 came to Cotonou from Nigeria: they were victims of trafficking of minors forced to work ins tone quarries. We met the Minister of the Family and Social Protection to plan for their accommodation and reinsertion. It would seem that in Nigeria there are about 16,000 boys and girls from Benin, trapped in the trafficking network. Sadly Benin is one of the countries in West Africa which feeds the trafficking of minors and the fight against the traffickers is arduous and it is difficult to sensitise the families and the people on the rights of childhood”. (M.F.D’A.) (Agenzia Fides 13/3/2004 - Righe 25 - Parole 367)