How Salesian Missionaries are Protecting Youths in West Africa from Human Trafficking

Logo on the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Credit: United Nations

On the occasion of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons marked July 30, the leadership of  Salesian Missions, the U.S.-based development arm of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), has joined other humanitarian organizations in reviewing initiatives toward curbing human trafficking around the world, including countries in West Africa.

Through the “Stop Trafficking” campaign, SDB members are seeking to provide “life-changing education, and prevention and awareness programs” to young people in the West African countries of Mali, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea Bissau. 

“Salesian missionaries around the globe provide programs and services to help youth lead healthier productive lives and ensure their safety,” the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek, says in a July 30 report shared with ACI Africa and adds, “Part of the focus of Salesian missionaries in many countries is educating youth about the dangers associated with migration and those who might wish them harm.”

One of the primary ways we support youth, Fr. Baek further says, “is understanding the needs of the local market and providing training programs that help youth find work in their own communities in employment sectors that are looking for skilled labor.”

In the landlocked West African nation of Mali, SDB’s “Stop Trafficking” campaign targets “youth leaving countries in Africa in search of a better life in Europe,” Hannah Gregory who is the Salesian Missions Media Representative indicated in a report shared with ACI Africa Thursday, July 30.

The campaign, which is a collaborative effort between the Salesian-run International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS) and the Don Bosco Mission Association in Turin, Italy, “aims to prevent young migrants from becoming victims of crime and exploitation,” the Salesian Missions official has said in the July 30 report.

Through the campaign, SDB members in Mali facilitate studies for young people who are given the opportunity to follow four diploma-based courses in metalworking, electricity and solar energy, automotive and agricultural mechanics, and entrepreneurship at the Salesian Vocational Training Center.

Located in the country’s capital, Bamako, the Center also awards a secondary school diploma in automotive mechanics and metalworking.

The goal of the campaign, Ms. Gregory’s report indicates, “is to be able to offer these courses to additional youth in need,” with SDB members at the facility aiming at increasing Center’s enrollment from 433 students to 809 in the 2020 school year. 

“They also plan to roll out a system to better identify vulnerable youth and make inroads in helping them secure employment after graduation,” Ms. Gregory says in her report shared with ACI Africa, adding that “the campaign will launch agricultural training in the rural town of Moribabougou that mostly targets women.”

In Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau, SDB members overseeing the “Stop Trafficking” campaign have launched a 15-months project, which will spearhead activities aimed at promoting development in view of reducing youth migration to other countries to escape poverty, Ms. Gregory further says in her report sent to ACI Africa.

The initiative, she says, will provide access to education through scholarships and work grants so that young people in the three West African nations are prepared for employment that will enable them meet current labor market needs.

Providing kits that will allow participants to start micro-enterprises in strategic sectors is part of the “Stop Trafficking” initiative.

“The project will work to strengthen the existing formal and informal psycho-social care that young migrants receive when they return back to their home countries to help them reintegrate into their communities,” the Salesian Missions Media Representative says in her report.

She continues, “The project will raise awareness among youth about the risks of migration. It will provide them with the resources to connect to education and employment in their own countries to reduce the need for migration.”

According to data by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) collected since 2003, there are about 225,000 victims of trafficking across the globe.

The World Day against Trafficking in Persons aims at raising “awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.” 

This year’s theme focuses on the first responders of human trafficking who work in different sectors “identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.”

“Trafficking in persons still constitutes an open wound on the body of contemporary society. I offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work on behalf of the innocent victims of the commodification of the human person. Much remains to be done! #EndHumanTrafficking,” Pope Francis Tweeted Thursday, July 30.

In a joint statement marking the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, Caritas Internationalis and COATNET, the global umbrella body of Christian organizations against trafficking in human beings, urged governments to “intensify efforts to identify victims of trafficking and exploitation, the number of which is worryingly increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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