When Family Traditions Go Bad

‘Vidomegon’ girls and Salesian Sisters in one of the biggest market of Western Africa

The Dantokpa market, in Cotonou, is the pulsing heart of Benin’s economical capital. It’s the right place for commercial and cultural exchanges, often flagged by travel guides as must-see. This huge market is also a major centre of a tragic business: the trafficking of underage persons, especially girls. This trafficking has roots in a tradition, called ‘vidomegòn’ in Fon language, that see the poorest families entrusting their children to some relatives or other families to allow them receive an education in the city.

Nowadays, unluckily, those kids are in the end just exploited, when not abused, by their “tutors”. Among people fighting against this trafficking there are the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, Catholic sisters checking the Dantokpa market daily and trying to give a different chance to the thousands of girls selling all kind of things from a great basket they carry on their heads.

The Salesian Sisters goal is to reintegrate these girls in the society, and their work is widespread. They started a huge number of projects: from a counseling centre in the middle of the Dantokpa market to the foyer where they can sleep, from the alphabetization classes to the Maison de l’Espérance (House of Hope), a real professional school.