Toddlers & Talibés:
Understanding children's vulnerability in Senegal
The pages of this website deal with my summer spent working with children at an orphanage called Vivre Ensemble (Live Together in French). Join me as I try to make sense of the lives of these children and the circumstances that lead to their difficult situations.
terms to know
Credit: BiyoKulule Online
In order to understand the issues discussed on this site, it is helpful to understand certain terms:
- Talibés or street children: Children who beg on the street during the day in exchange for education of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, at night. These children range anywhere from 4 to 18 years old. This is a traditional practice in Senegal and other neighboring Muslim countries. The marabout, or religious leader, is their teacher. Many marabouts require the talibés to bring back a certain quota of money, rice, or sugar, or else the children risk being beaten. The children typically live together in a shelter and school called a daara. This practice has only become abusive in recent years, and not all marabouts demand quotas or beat their students.
Learn more about talibés.
Credit: Thomas Lekfeldt /Ekstra Bladet /MOMENT
- Marabout: Muslim religious leader and teacher of the talibés. Some are abusive or have been accused of child trafficking and slavery.
- Daara: Quranic school where talibés live and learn when not in the streets. Many are considered to be inadequate forms of shelter that do not protect children from the elements. They are often small and overcrowded.
- Orphan: The use of the word "orphan" throughout this site is not in the traditional context. Usually, an orphan is defined as a child whose parents are both deceased or has been abandoned by both parents. In the orphanage where I worked, a minority of the children fit this definition. Most of the children are there because the family cannot financially support the child or the mother is either deceased or incapable of taking care of the child due to illness, handicap, or incarceration. Some children are "paternal orphans" meaning their father has passed away or is missing. Children in any of these situations will still be referred to as "orphans" throughout the site.
Learn more about orphans and orphanhood.
- Vivre Ensemble: French NGO that runs the orphanage in M'Bour, Senegal
- Pouponnière: The section of the orphanage where I volunteered. Often referred to as the Poup', children 0 to ~3 years of age lived in this section.