Dakar is the capital and largest city of Senegal, located in the westernmost tip of the country. Around 3 million people live in this city, which is a leading industrial and service centre in Africa. Dakar however, is also characterized by uncontrolled growth that lacks urban planning, and the ubiquitous contrast of wealth and poverty. Children in the city are at risk of being forced to work, beg on the streets or marry early.
Since 1987, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Dakar.
In Senegal, girls are still victim of child marriages. Indeed, 29% of women are married before they turn 18. Child marriage is a violation of the universal declaration of human rights, and the emotional damage a child suffers from a forced union is profound. There is also an increased risk of child pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and domestic violence.
Poverty is also a major cause. In the region of Dakar specifically, around 20% of all women were married before age 18. The target to end child marriage by 2030 will require a major push from the government.
22% of children are involved in child labour in Senegal. Thousands of children can be seen begging on the streets of the Dakar metropolitan area each and every day, some as young as two years of age. The majority of them are boys, and most of them are from families who have migrated from rural areas or neighbouring countries.
But many of these boys no longer live with their families: it is common for parents to place their sons in the care of a Koranic teacher. However, far from the eyes of their family of origin, these boys are at risk of being exploited.