Like other countries around the world, the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau has its share of problems. Whether it is the high rate of poverty or the lingering scars of a civil war that ended just twelve years ago, the unstable political and social situation can often place its citizens in vulnerable situations. The Bissau-Guinean children are often those that bear the brunt of unfair treatment and human rights violations, as seen by issues facing local families, such as the problem of child trafficking.
There has been a frequent number of cases where parents are persuaded by men posing as Koranic teachers to send their children to neighboring Senegal, where they are promised to receive religious education as “talibé.” Upon arrival to Dakar, these children are then forced to work as beggars, where they are often mistreated when they do not bring home the targeted amount of money. The organization SOS Talibé estimates that 200 children are trafficked each month to Senegal, and approximately 30% of all child beggars in Dakar originate from Guinea-Bissau.
The national organization Associação dos Amigos de Criança (Association of Friends of Children) or better known as AMIC, has been working since 1984 to raise awareness about the rights of children and to prevent cases of trafficking. AMIC has also been working with a coalition of organizations to rescue the children and bring them back to Guinea-Bissau for family reunification.
However, AMIC also works pro-actively by supporting cultural activities for children and youth around the country, and in outlying neighborhoods of the capital city of Bissau. Recently, AMIC organized art workshops supported by the Portuguese NGO Associação para a Cooperação Entre os Povos [pt] (Association for Cooperation Between People) to produce a book called Vozes de Nós [pt] (Our Voices), which contains the art work created by children out of everyday materials found in the community.
AMIC also works closely with cultural groups to provide a creative outlet for children and youth by providing art, theater, and dance activities. It also provides leadership opportunities for young adults, who work as “animadores” or organizers within the various neighborhoods. One of these groups called “Netos de Bandim” has been working in the neighborhoods of Bandim and Enterramento, where they engage with the youth providing these activities. Yet, it is the dance troupes that may be the activity in which Netos de Bandim is best known for coordinating. The dance troupe recently returned from Brazil following an invitation to perform at various Carnaval events in March 2011 [pt]. The following is a video of the recent performance in the neighborhood of Bandim.
Rising Voices will be supporting AMIC and the cultural group Netos de Bandim with a microgrant so that they can implement the citizen media outreach project “Youth Voices of Bandim and Enterramento.” The project is aimed at working with the group's “animadores” and the children of the neighborhoods of Bandim and Enterramento by teaching them how to use digital tools such as digital cameras and audio recorders to help capture sights and sounds of their communities, as a way to generate discussions about issues facing their communities. According to the proposal submitted by AMIC, these neighborhoods face a “lack of access to safe drinking water, a fragile sanitation system, poor educational infrastructure, and few safe places for children to play.” These conversations will also focus heavily on how the residents of these communities can take an active role in improving the situation, showing that they also have their share of solutions.
The project's coordinator Ector Diogenes Cassamá spoke about his hopes for the project and why it is important to the residents of Bissau.
There will certainly be challenges facing the project, since Guinea-Bissau has a very low internet penetration rate at 2.4% Those that do have access to the internet must contend with slow connection speeds, and often at high costs. However, what is already in place is a willing and excited group of young people eager to show the world that even though there may be tough circumstances facing the country, there are groups of resilient young people eager to show the world that there are positive activities taking place in the neighborhoods of Bissau. It will be through the use of citizen media that these young leaders plan to showcase and document these efforts.
In upcoming posts, we will feature both the neighborhoods of Bandim and Enterramento and the different activities taking place in Bissau.