Public Opinion is Clear: Urgent Legislation Required to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation! Read the story

Members Spotlight: Association Keoogo

Protecting children living in street situations from sexual exploitation in Burkina Faso

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In March 2023, ECPAT International welcomed Association Keoogo as the newest member of the ECPAT International member network.

Based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the organisation works with local communities, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to identify and provide care services for children in situations of exploitation. The name Keoogo refers to the journey from childhood to adulthood and the values transmitted along this path in traditional Mossi society.

Association Keoogo is also committed to implementing prevention and care initiatives, including awareness-raising activities and capacity-building programmes to equip protection actors with the necessary skills and knowledge to protect children from such crimes. In recent years, the organisation has developed child-friendly toolkits to teach children about sexual exploitation, provided holistic care for over 2000 child victims, and set up a working network to address child sexual exploitation. 

Cheick Ouattara, Head of Programs at Association Keoogo, sheds light on the reality of children living in street situations, the dangers they face, and the urgent action needed to better protect them from harm. 

What is the current situation of child sexual exploitation in Burkina Faso?   

Child sexual exploitation remains a significant concern in Burkina Faso, affecting children from all walks of life.

The widespread use of the Internet has not only facilitated children’s access to sexual content online, but has also enabled potential offenders to contact children through social networks. Additionally, the ongoing security crisis has led to the displacement of many families, placing more children at risk of sexual exploitation. There is also evidence that young girls are being trafficked for sexual purposes to areas with high economic activity, such as urban centres and mining sites. 

Despite laws and initiatives in place to address child sexual exploitation, insufficient resources and challenges in the enforcement of legal frameworks are hampering efforts to curb this crime in Burkina Faso.

Why is Association Keoogo focused on protecting children living in street situations?

Children living in street situations are beset with physical, psychological, and moral challenges.

These children are often left to fend for themselves, without support from family or community members. Our work is centred around providing children with support, comfort, a place in society, and the dignity they deserve. 

What are some of the dangers that children living in street situations face, and how does Keoogo address them?

The lives of children living in street situations are fraught with dangers, including trafficking, violence, prostitution, lack of access to healthcare, and exposure to sexually transmitted infections.

Many of these children resort to substance abuse and alcoholism to endure the harshness of their reality. Issues such as anxiety, hunger, and lack of sleep, force these children into desperate situations. Many steal to survive and have to commit untold acts to survive. They further face the negative social stereotypes that perpetuate the idea that children living in street situations are distrustful, rebellious, and frequently engage in criminal activity. 

In response to these challenges, Keoogo’s approach to working with children in street situations is grounded in holistic care and support, as well as strengthening community mechanisms and the national child protection system.  

Recognising the reality of the street as a living environment for children, especially for children cut off from their families, Keoogo works to build trust and relationships through a support system that centres the needs of the child and considers them as individuals with unique personalities and skills. Through this approach, Keoogo has successfully conducted programs designed to empower young people to protect themselves and their peers. 

At the community level, women leaders and members of women’s associations have been trained to play a critical role in identifying and providing community care to children living in street situations, as well as referring cases to child protection systems. 

What is needed to better support and protect children living in street situations? 

The first step is to establish a solid foundation of trust. Service providers must adopt a non-judgemental approach to ensure the children feel safe and comfortable. Collaboration with other organisations and communities is also critical in widening the net of protection services to reach as many children as possible. 

Ultimately, our experience has shown that, the best approach is to build the capacity of parents to better care for and protect their children. 

What message would you like to send to individuals and organisations on International Day of Street Children? 

Regardless of their circumstances or location, children deserve the same rights.

It is the responsibility of every individual and organisation to take action to safeguard the rights of children. Let’s stand up for children’s rights to create a better life for them, especially those displaced by insecurity and living in street situations.