NS Launches Anti-Trafficking Initiative In Cameroon

The soft rolling hills and green fields of Ndop, belie the silent tragedy that grips this small farming community, in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. Driven by extreme poverty and privation, many parents and guardians in this community have been lured into giving up their children, some as young as five to work in distant cities, enticed by false promises of an education, and income for the children. Without a strong system of law and order and far away from their families, these children face chronic abuse at the hands of those they serve, and endure their ordeals silently without recourse or release; a tragic scenario that victimizes the poor throughout rural Cameroon.

To help combat this phenomenon, Nascent Solutions launched its Project SHIELD (Sheltering the Innocent from Exploitative Labor and Deprivation) initiative in Cameroon’s North West Province in June 2010. Besides raising awareness among the target communities and public officials, the project’s goals also include the eventual rescue and rehabilitation of victims. Nascent Solutions will collaborate with law enforcement personnel, social workers and community leaders in the areas of victim identification, prevention of trafficking and sensitization on the various strategies used by traffickers to lure their victims.

To begin implementation of its initiative against this epidemic of Trafficking in Persons (TIP), Nascent Solutions’ Project SHIELD management and staff have been consulting with community leaders and social workers in the Ngoketunjia, Bui and Donga Mantung Divisions to establish a rapport with members of the community, meet with affected families and shore up community sensitization efforts. The objective of the consultation meetings is also to formulate a community specific working plan to aggressively tackle this tragic phenomenon.

 

During the course of the meetings, parents and relatives recount personal stories of their experiences with TIP. Mr Julius Tafoloh related the story of his daughter Lizzette, who had been offered work in the distant city Douala with the promise of an education, and after three years at age 8 had not attended a day of classes. Mr Lasha a community elder and host of the meeting stated that, due to severe poverty, many parents were willing to surrender their children to strangers or distant relatives, on the promise of a meal a day and shelter for the child. Thus trafficked children often end up as indentured laborers working as far away as Nigeria and on road construction projects run in big cities by foreign corporations or victims of sexual abuse and prostitution.

Community members voiced the conviction that given material and financial assistance in income generating activities such as farming and small-scale animal husbandry, their economic life would be greatly improved and incidences of trafficking would consequently be stemmed. However alerting the public to the risks trafficked children face was agreed to by all as a critical and crucial step to deterring trafficking.

To broaden the audience base Nascent’s field staff uses the local community radio to organize conferences with representatives of the community, develop partnerships partnering with the aim of broadcasting educational programs, to inform the populace of the dangers presented by trafficking. Consultations with service providers are ongoing and include the Police and Justice departments, traditional institutions, the judicial system and members of the community and government social workers, to create a united front towards effectively combating the Trafficking in Persons. Members of the target community have been encouraged and heartened by the meeting and eager to gain ground against the epidemic of child trafficking in their community.

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