BENIN: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Visits Salesian Programs that Give Hope, Opportunity to At-Risk Youth
(UNICEF) UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo made a two-day visit to Benin, her native country, to witness first-hand the UNICEF supported programs that are helping vulnerable children there.
In Cotonou, Ms. Kidjo visited 99 children at the ‘Black Style’ hair dressing center, where she paid tribute to the NGOs that are working with the Government and with UNICEF to implement career-training activities.
“Your education is a priority,” she said. “This is the opportunity that enables you to build up your one life. It gives you the autonomy you need to become a responsible adult.”
At Hindé, a shelter run by the Salesian Sisters, Ms. Kidjo met with many children – including 72 girls who have been victims of economic exploitation and child trafficking. Twelve of these girls had been excluded from formal education, but are now attending accelerated courses and getting a second chance at an education.
At the Minor Protection Brigade—where nearly 1,000 children were sheltered in 2009—Ms. Kidjo met with Commissaire Tokpanou, a passionate defender of children’s rights.
The center hosts vulnerable children—from those abandoned in the streets to those that were victims of trafficking. Though in desperate need of more social workers, the center remains open.
In Porto Novo, Ms. Kidjo visited children in Don Bosco’s center where 137 boys live. Many are victims of violence, abuse, economic exploitation and/or child trafficking. The center provides accelerated education and vocational training to prepare these children for a brighter future.
At each stop on the visit, children described their painful experiences to Ms. Kidjo, all wondering why life had been so harsh for them, yet all still hopeful about their future.
During her visit, Ms. Kidjo learned about the innovative dual education approach.
This innovative program enrolls older children aged 14 to 17 in three-year apprenticeship training program – in hair dressing, vehicle and motorcycle maintenance, and tailoring. The Government supports 90 per cent of the fees, and UNICEF contributes 10 per cent.
To date, over a thousand children have benefited from this program.
Concluding her visit, Ms. Kidjo called for “the responsibility of parents, families and the State, to fulfill the right for each Beninese child to have a birth certificate, to be educated and to be safe from child trafficking.”
PHOTO © UNICEF/2009/Asselin
By Gisèle Langue Menye / UNICEF