– July 8 2022
A burden lifted for girls forced into work
Text and photos by Jessica Tradati
Five years after the launch of the ‘Tantie Bagage’ project, SOS Children’s Villages has helped hundreds of girls out of child labor in Cote d’Ivoire.
In Cote d’Ivoire, about 20% of children ages 5 to 17 are involved in child labor. Three-quarters of these children are under the age of 14, reports the International Labour Organization (ILO). More broadly, about 24% of children in sub-Saharan Africa work. The continent of Africa, as a whole, has more child workers than the rest of the world combined, says the Economist.
Poverty is a major driver of child labor. Parents put their children at the disposal of intermediaries or operators in return for money, or children living in extreme poverty decide to work to help support their parents or siblings.
Through the 'Tantie Bagage' program, SOS Children’s Villages raised awareness among parents about the dangers of child labor and the importance of protecting children and their fundamental rights. The program also provided job and skills trainings to help adults improve their income and not rely on forcing their children to work.
“Given the strong link between children and women, we have particularly targeted women through our trainings,” says Didier Zogoue, SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Program Coordinator in Abobo. “We know that if we empower women in a community, we can achieve better child care.”
Key Figures on 'Tantie Bagage':
- 119 young girls in “Tantie Bagage” received educational assistance and tablets with free access to online courses. This has been put in place to encourage girls to spend more time studying and improve their school results.
- 103 illiterate or out-of-school girls are in apprenticeships at the Institute for Women’s Education and Training.
- 182 parents took skills training to improve their ability to provide for their children and prevent them from forcing their children to return to the markets.
Read Their Stories
Grace*, comes from Abobo, one of Abidjan’s most underprivileged neighborhoods. She has a cheeky smile and deep eyes, which have seen much more than what one should expect from a 13 year old.
Grace was only nine years old when she started carrying heavy loads for clients shopping at the market. She saw other girls doing it and earning good money, and since her dad was unemployed and her mom was already struggling to provide for her and her six siblings, she thought it was a good idea to do it.
Two years later, SOS Children’s Villages got in touch with her mother. “SOS Children's Villages called me and I talked to Grace about what they said they could do for her and for us, if she stopped working. Grace said yes without any hesitation,” Grace’s mother recalls.
SOS Children’s Villages offered Grace and her sister a tablet where they could follow online courses to complement what they were doing in school, and the family started to regularly receive food products, such as rice, oil, tomatoes and pasta.
Grace’s mother sells vegetables at the market and sometimes works as a dressmaker. Since her husband lost his job three years ago, she is the sole provider for their seven children. In a few weeks time, Grace’s mother will receive financial support from SOS Children’s Villages to launch her own income-generating activity. This will help her on her journey to becoming financially independent.
As a Tantie Baggage, Grace could earn between 7-10 USD per week. Unlike her sister, "Grace would keep the whole sum for herself,” says her mother with a smile. “She never shared it with me, but she never asked for money. She could afford her own food with what she was earning.”
Working at the market was very tiring and Grace was often sick. “Some clients were nice, some others were not. Once I had to carry some very heavy loads and my neck was in lots of pain afterwards,” says Grace.
Whenever she didn’t have school, Grace was working at the market, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. “It was hard to focus on school while I was doing Tantie Bagage,” she says. “I have better grades now because I am less tired. When school is over, I have time to do my homework and rest.”
If you ask Grace what her plans for the future are now that she is back in school full time, she sharply replies that she wants to become an actress. And if that does not work out, she will be an eye doctor, as she has eye problems herself.
Amy* started working as Tantie Bagage in Abobo when she was 16. She was attending a koranic school at the time, and she dropped out when her friends proposed her to work as a porter for shoppers at the market.
She could earn up to 6 USD per day as Tantie Bagage, and she was giving this money to her mom to help her provide for her and her three siblings.
“One day, my mom got a call from SOS Children’s Villages. She asked me what I wanted to do if I were to take part in the project, and I said sewing. I love dressmakers, they can do whatever they want and they are their own boss,” Amy says.
With the financial support of SOS Children’s Villages, Amy was accepted for a three-year traineeship at a dressmaker’s shop in Abobo, and she was finally able to quit her job at Tantie Bagage at the market.
Amy now looks at the future and imagines herself owning her own dressmaking shop and welcoming young girls like herself to get trainings. “I would like to help girls like me and have them in my shop and teach them the job, so that they can do something with their lives.”
Salimata* lives in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire’s political capital. There are seven children in the family and her mom is a widow.
When she was 10, a friend told her about her job as Tantie Bagage and the possibility of earning good money with it. Salimata decided to drop out of school and follow her friend’s advice.
She worked at the market for three years, carrying heavy loads for clients and earning between 4-7 USD per day.
In 2017, SOS Children’s Villages met her and told her about the Tantie Bagage program as an alternative to her strenuous job at the market. Salimata did not hesitate and a few months later she started a three-year traineeship, paid by SOS Children’s Villages, at the hairdressing institute in Yamoussoukro.
Last year, Salimata was able to open her own hairdresser’s salon—where SOS Children’s Villages covers part of the rent costs—and make a living of her own. “I am now independent, though SOS Children's Villages still helps me cover some of my business’ expenses. I now have my salary, and I do something I like that doesn’t make me exhausted at the end of day.”
Tantie Bagage is planning to launch a second phase to target more children and other forms of child labor.
In 2022, the Tantie Bagage project will launch a new three-year phase to reach 1,000 people (between direct and indirect beneficiaries) in three different locations in Cote d’Ivoire. The idea is to integrate other types of child labor (i.e. trafficked children, children working in agriculture or mining) and make sure that 30% of participants are boys.
“Over five years of Tantie Bagage, we saw that it is possible to get children out of child labor and bring them back to school or train them for a proper job in the future,” says Didier Zogoue, Family Strengthening Program Coordinator in Abobo. “The road to end child labor in the country is still long, but this project showed us that it is possible and necessary to strengthen parents economically first to reduce the phenomenon.”
SOS Children’s Villages cannot work alone, and it is through partnerships and advocacy efforts that a more sustainable and long-term shift in the existing child labor patterns will be achieved.
“We want to see more engagement and actions taken by the government so that together we can build more social awareness and develop better legal frameworks to combat child labor,” says Didier.
*Names changed to protect privacy