In Benin, Angélique Kidjo visits centres for trafficked and abused children
Tuesday, 09.10.2007, 08:28am (GMT)
At the Laura Vicuna Centre for child rehabilitation here in Cotonou, UNICEF Goodwill Angélique Kidjo held in her arms a sobbing Rosine, 13, who had just bravely told her story of abuse.
Not long ago, Rosine was removed from the centre by her mother and given into marriage for a tin of oil and a bag of corn. The Salesian Sisters, who operate the UNICEF-supported facility, had to appeal to the prosecutor of the republic to get Rosine back – but by the time authorities rescued her, it was too late.
Rosine’s story was not the only one told that day. Rufine, 15, recounted how her father had sold her at age six to her aunt, who brutally abused her, physically and mentally. Since arriving at the centre, Rufine has become first in her class and now dreams of being a midwife.
“You should not think that because you have been hurt, you are worth less than anyone else,” said a visibly moved Ms. Kidjo. The internationally acclaimed singer visited the Laura Vicuna Centre during a recent tour of Benin for UNICEF.
“You deserve enjoyment and happiness,” she added. “Get rid of the word ‘impossible’. Believe in yourselves. What I am hearing now is hard for me, but you give me some more strength to fight.”
‘The child is sacred’
In addition to the Laura Vicuna Centre, the Salesian Sisters run a shelter and alternative education centre known as the House of Hope. Ms. Kidjo also visited that facility and another rehabilitation centre, Terre des Homme, where trafficked and exploited youths are counselled before being reunited with their families.
The children welcomed Ms. Kidjo to Terre des Homme with traditional songs and dances. Former victims of abuse sang and rejoiced with her, a sign that the wounds inflicted upon them are healing.
“The child is sacred,” said Ms Kidjo. “Poverty must not justify child trafficking anymore. Hand in hand, we can eradicate the phenomenon.”
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