Violence against children is a global concern that is often predictable and preventable. Children of all ages, gender, backgrounds, and identities are at risk of being hurt physically, sexually, psychologically and through neglect. Growing data and evidence shows that the risk of violence is present day-to-day and can become heightened with vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, violence against girls and boys can occur from people in positions of authority and trust. Cases involving religious leaders, government institutions, arts and entertainment gures (gurus?), and humanitarians have been visible in media around the world. The consequences of violence on the lives of children can be profoundly harmful. The impact is also felt by families and entire communities and can influence human lives for decades and across generations. There are also repercussions for organizations in which personnel hurt children. These include nancial (?), legal, and reputational damages and a loss of integrity.

In Senegal, many families follow traditional religious beliefs and practices by sending their children for training and education by religious teachers (marabouts) at Koranic schools (daaras). The role of such schools in socializing young people, in handing on cultural and positive religious values necessary to maintain the social fabric has been largely demonstrated in the research. Unfortunately, today rapid urbanization and poverty have created opportunities for unscrupulous traffickers to recruit children and put them on the street as beggars under the guise of religious training. Some religious students (talibés) and other children, including some as young as five years old, are sent into urban and peri-urban areas to beg for food, money and other necessities. While on the streets begging – or after running away, which is not uncommon – talibés face physical and sexual abuse, exposure to illegal substances, and vulnerability to car accidents and drowning, among other dangers and forms of exploitation. In the daaras, talibés may face extremely unsanitary and crowded conditions, regular and severe corporal punishment, sexual abuse, poor protection against the elements, and the trauma of family rupture. Many talibés enter adulthood deprived of a complete education and unprepared for productive employment.

Senegal has ratified all the conventions and treaties on the rights of children, and included them in national law. Indeed, most of the policies that have been put into place during both the socialist presidency of former president AbdouDiouf and the neoliberal presidency of President Abdoulaye Wade have relied heavily on laws and regulations. This exemplifies the limits of an idealist administration, inherited from the colonial era, and whose perception of society relies simply too much on sociological and political theories and concepts which hardly apply to the Senegalese society. Indeed, when reading documents such as the last National Development Policy Strategy, one realizes that many of the social characteristics of the Senegalese society are omitted, or given too little weight. Important factors such as the importance of traditions in society and the role played by local religious influence, notably by the local Sufi brotherhoods, seems not to be given any importance by the public administration in charge of finding solutions to this phenomenon. This problem of overreliance on imported systems of understanding society has amplifying consequences on the “Talibe” problems of Senegal, since they often tend to lead to a wrong policy orientation, which does not address the problem at its root.

Khidma/Daara Program aims to tackle the complex issue of forced child begging, practiced in the context of Koranic schools (daaras).