Yvette and her father with Sister Mercy
My name is Meg Dallett, and I'm an intern with GlobalGiving's In the Field Program. This summer I'm traveling through Cameroon visiting GlobalGiving's in-country partner organizations and writing about my experiences.
When Yvette was 15, a woman came to offer her a job. The woman told Yvette’s father that she needed someone to watch her child, and that if Yvette worked for her for two years the woman would pay for a job training course for her. Yvette and her father lived in poverty in the tiny village of Mbaima, and with no other prospects the man thought this was the best way he could provide for his daughter’s future. But when Yvette arrived in Bamenda, hours away from her village and with no way to send word home, she found an exploitative job with no wages. Just before the two-year mark, the woman fired Yvette over a fake accusation and refused to give her any money or pay for the promised job training.
Yvette’s story is frighteningly common in Cameroon—young boys and girls with no education and no hope in their own homes follow promises of big-city jobs to Cameroon’s urban areas or over the border into Nigeria, where they are exploited, abused, and rarely paid. Some come home, like Yvette; others never make it back and often become prostitutes in their new cities. Even for the ones who return to their homes, the picture is bleak: they return to the same crushing poverty they came from, and they have now lost years of schooling and often carry the stigma of sexual abuse.
Nascent Solutions’ Trafficking in Persons (TIP) project is trying to help stop this cycle by attacking it at all levels. In the first phase of the program, they’re bringing an education and awareness campaign to villages throughout the Northwest region of Cameroon, telling families the truth about the strangers (and often other family members) who offer to take their children to work in the cities. Staff member Sister Mercy, who had children running up to hug her in every village we visited, talks with women’s groups about how to keep kids safe and spread the word about trafficking, recruiting these existing organizations to serve as community watch groups. Nascent Solutions also works with the government to better police high-trafficking areas, like border junctions, and to prosecute the traffickers when possible.
Although they’ve been able to rescue a small number of children in the few months the program has been operational, the team is hoping soon to have enough funds to bring back and rehabilitate many more. The rehabilitation part is key—frequently, children who have been rescued go straight back into the trafficking system because they have no other options at home. In the long run, Nascent Solutions is developing a microcredit program to help ease the financial burden on parents who can’t afford to support all their children (as well as the region’s increasing number of AIDS orphans).
Through Nascent Solutions, Yvette finally received the job training she’d been hoping for: she’s now working as a dressmaker back in her village. She has a big smile and says she likes her work, and her father looks on proudly. For Nascent Solutions, the challenge will be taking this happy outcome and making it a common one.