On October 30 and November 1, Tostan and International Medical Relief partnered in Thiès, Senegal  to provide free medical consultation and treatment to 2,000 talibés, young boys who are sent from their homes to live and study in koranic school.

As part of a talibé’s education, he is expected to spend time begging in order to learn humility. Though this form of experiential learning was originally used as tool to instill a virtue in young boys, some teachers, or marabout, have used it to exploit their students.  Many talibés are forced to beg almost exclusively and, in the process of spending long hours unsupervised on city streets, are often exposed to very dangerous conditions.

According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, there are currently 50,000 talibés living and working in high-risk environments throughout urban Senegal. Due to poor living conditions, neglect, and often abuse, many talibés suffer from malnutrition, malaria, and skin and lung infections. As part of the two-day health event in Thiès, Tostan and International Medical Relief mobilized 25 doctors and dentists to treat the talibés for such ailments.

As a long-term solution to inequalities that vulnerable children, like talibés, face, Tostan is implementing the Community-Led Social Protection Project (Child Protection Project), with support from the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Slavery International.  Starting in 2010, the initiative is being implemented in 74 communities that have previously completed Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) across five regions in Senegal.

Focusing on empowering already established Community Management Committees (CMCs), this project expands upon the human rights CEP module in a five-day intensive training. Participants build consensus within their communities around human rights and children’s rights and together are trained how to build community infrastructure that ensures the long-term protection of children. Specifically, they train their communities to identify situations or practices that place children at risk; to help communities prevent and address the trafficking or migration of children to urban centers; to assist children faced with challenges such as sexual abuse, forced marriage, or female genital cutting (FGC); and to establish systems in the community that will ensure children’s rights are protected.

By investing in solutions that meet both the immediate and long-term needs of children, Tostan and its partners are taking steps to ensure that every child is safe and able to grow in a healthy and supportive environment.

To read more about the medical consultations in Thiès, Senegal as covered by local press, click here.