In Benin, social workers dedicated to children in street situations

On Sunday 3 January 2021, a child who will be called Moussa (15 years old) was identified by a team of two street social workers, Roger and Parfait, in a group of street children estimated to be around sixty in the vicinity of the Cococondji market, in the commune of Abomey-Calavi in Benin.

He soon joined the activities of listening, participatory construction of a life project, games on children’s rights, five-a-side football and initiation into the crash course programme offered to him by both of these fifty-year-old social workers, whom he considers a reference point against the predators of the meagre and uncertain income he gets from small street jobs. The intensity of his activities and his living conditions have gradually weakened him to the point where, towards the end of the year, his peers once told to the team that « Moussa is ill and does not want to tell you ».

The establishment of a new outreach team consisting of a social worker, Agnès, and a « community mother », Délé, with a permanent presence from April 2022, reassured Moussa who felt secure and confided in them directly, especially regarding his pathologies (anorexia, continuous weight loss). Wanting to be bold, he declined any offer of care from this new team, taking advantage only of their support and advice on how to improve their local living conditions.

The arrival of the nurse social worker, Audrée, enabled the team to understand that his initial withdrawal was due to the confidentiality he wanted around his illness because his peers suspected his close proximity to the local sex workers. Feeling increasingly secure with the presence of Audrée, Moussa eventually accepted the offers of care for the children there and his referral to a nearby health centre, where he received appropriate medical examinations and care. Psychosocial follow-up was put in place by the team, reinforced by the presence of a mixed pair of volunteer and trainee psychologists, Norbert and Kévine, who participated in the last General Assembly of street social workers on Saturday 17 September 2022 at the headquarters of the Group of Specialised Educators of Benin (GRES BENIN).

Their collective work continues so that, like Moussa, other children in need can benefit from appropriate care.

By Agnès TOHOUINDJI, Street social worker – Abomey-Calavi