This update covers highlights of significant achievements as a result of the collaboration between the National Sections of DCI (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia) to end cross-border child trafficking between Mano River Union (MRU) countries in 2018. The following achievements were made:
Signing of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to prevent and respond to cross-border child trafficking:
Limited protection mechanisms represent a significant challenge in the protection of children from cross-border trafficking. Now the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the prevention and response to cross border child trafficking provides a framework to facilitate effective collaboration between border frontline security officials, community leaders and civil society actors in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This is a unique opportunity to strengthen cross border cooperation, build trust, and adhere to regional and international obligations to protect their citizens, particularly vulnerable children, against cross-border exploitation and abuse. In June 2018, DCI-SL, DCI-Guinea and DCI-Liberia facilitated the signing of the Standard Operating Procedures, that aims at strengthening bilateral (Inter-State) cooperation between frontline security officials, community leaders and civil society actors of their respective countries. The SOPs were signed and adopted by both local and national level authorities of the countries concerned. In all endeavours taken by the parties to these SOPs the best interest of the child must always be seen as the utmost priority. Today, with the SOPs, DCI has succeeded in providing a template for frontline officials on how to effectively collaborate to address cross-border child trafficking, children on the move and related issues at the border areas.
Note that before these Standard Operating Procedures were signed, they were tested upon their final drafting and were found by frontline border officials, community leaders and CSOs, including DCI sections, to be very relevant. They are very important for the MRU States, where children are still forced into labor or sexual exploitation within or across borders. In addition, the MRU countries still serve as sources, transit points, and destination countries for human trafficking. The standard procedure calls for practical measures for the implementation of regional and national laws that prohibit child trafficking.
Training of border security officials, community leaders and CSOs on the SOP to end Cross-border child trafficking:
Following the signing of the SOPs, the three DCI sections provided two days of intensive training to security officials, community leaders and CSOs to understand the content of the document and how to enforce it. The training led to the development of an implementation plan for the SOPs, which symbolizes the desire among the trainees to immediately implement the SOPs and achieve desired results. The implementation plan primarily focuses on the specific activities that should be done to ensure that the SOPs become a living, result oriented document.
Awareness raising to bring attention to child trafficking and gather public support for increased protections:
The DCI national sections continued to embark on public awareness raising campaigns to bring attention to cross-border child trafficking and gather public support to increase the protection of children against violence, abuse and exploitation. Together with community stakeholders – including chiefs, youths and children – sensitisation and awareness raising activities were conducted to take the SOPs to the surrounding communities, villages and market places. Community members were also encouraged to play active roles in identifying and reporting suspected cases of trafficking.
DCI-SL also participated in several TV and radio talk shows to spread the message on child trafficking to wider population of television viewers and radio listeners.
Training of children and children’s groups (Children Forum Network) as agents of change to address child trafficking:
DCI sections also built the capacity of local and youth children groups to carry out community and school-based campaigns on child trafficking in border communities. The trainings offered to the children enables them to recognize and respond to cases of child trafficking and carryout campaigns to educate others about trafficking. These groups have been organising outdoor drama productions in streets, market places and public transport stations in border areas. Their campaigns were targeting street children and children on the move – as well as parents – to be mindful of traffickers. They also organise school outreach programmes to raise awareness on the issues and mobilize public support to addressing child trafficking and children on the move.
Cases Managed & Supported:
During 2018, with the intervention of DCI sections in border areas, 10 suspected traffickers were arrested, and 23 victims rescued. Whilst a few of the cases were later dismissed by the police due to lack of sufficient evidence, a majority are under investigation and two convictions have been achieved in Liberia over a mother and daughter that were recruited from Sierra Leone and taken to Liberia for sale.
Organize the 5th Convening of Child Rights CSOs working in the MRU Sates to end cross-border child trafficking:
Finally, from the 5 – 7 December 2018, Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone, in collaboration with DCI Liberia and DCI Guinea, organised a convening of child rights CSOs, including children children’s groups from the MRU States in Makeni, Bombali district Sierra Leone, to reflect on previous action, the current states of children’s rights, share lessons learnt and best practices in addressing child trafficking, children on the move and other related issues in the region. The convening provided an opportunity for the participants to undertake a shared analysis of children’s rights issues in the sub-region and explore opportunities for collaboration and learning across borders. The convening additionally increased the knowledge and understanding of children’s rights trends across MRU States, and identified key drivers, the role of children and youths and their safeguard needs. The main outcomes of the convening were:
- Framework for sub regional CSO child rights programming;
- List of priority issues of mutual intervention for 2019;
- And a declaration that presents the unanimous voice of participants calling on different stakeholders to take action to end child trafficking and protect children on the move as well as increasing access to justice for the victims.