Last week, from December 3-7, 2013, awareness-raising events on child protection issues were held in Thiès, a region in western Senegal.   Hosted by the rural community of Ngoundiane, which includes 15 villages, these events were organized by the association And Défar Cees (ADC), in collaboration with Tostan.

Since its creation in 2004, ADC has worked closely with Tostan on human rights issues, with a particular emphasis on child protection, the environment, women’s rights, and income-generating activities.  ADC consists of 52 Community Management Committees (CMCs) from communities who implemented Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) from 1999 to 2003.

Ngoundiane was chosen to host the event due to the significant school drop-out rates in the area. In Ngoundiane, rural exodus and child labor are the main causes for children leaving school. Girls are often forced to migrate to Dakar, Senegal’s capital, to work as servants for low wages and many young boys leave school to work in basalt quarries, a much sought-after material needed in the construction of roads and railroads.

The week-long events were well attended by community members, village chiefs and religious leaders who showed their commitment to child protection. Participants responded to ADC’s participative community approach and they welcomed learning about promoting positive social norms from Tostan.

ADC is supported by Unicef in three main areas: capacity-building, awareness-raising of child protection issues and rehabilitation. The association is working to help 50 children rejoin the formal education system and prevent further drop-outs due to economic constraints, by distributing kits containing school supplies to these children. In addition, the association also provides ten families with funds for income generating activities, so they do not have to rely on their children working. ADC is also planning to register another 50 children in centers for vocational training in carpentry, mechanics, hairdressing, tailoring and dressmaking.

Experienced Tostan team members work closely with ADC to build the association’s capacity to educate and empower community members about child protection issues.