August 25 2003
Go-ahead for the third SOS Children's Village in Benin
25/08/2003 - On 16 August, about 300 people attended the corner stone laying ceremony for the third SOS Children's Village in Benin, among them the Minister of Social Affairs, representatives of SOS Children's Villages Sweden and numerous inhabitants of Dassa-Zoumé.
Construction activities for the third SOS Children's Village in Benin will commence by the end of October this year. The official inauguration took place on 16 August in the presence of government officials like Ms Latoundji, Minister for Social Affairs, local officials from Dassa-Zoumé, representatives of SOS Children's Villages and numerous people from the neighbourhood. The city of Dassa-Zoumé, the location of the future SOS Children's Village, is situated about 200 km from Cotonou, the seat of the government, on the connecting road to Niamey.
All speakers at the corner stone laying ceremony emphasised the urgent demand for facilities that would help to improve the living conditions of children in need and boost social development in the region. On behalf of the government, Minister of Social Affairs Latoundji expressed the appreciation for the activities of SOS Children's Villages and praised the excellent co-operation between the local administration and the child-care organisation. Says Lars Pettersson, one of the Swedish donors, on his motivation to support this project, "The situation of children in Benin is partly alarming. This is why this country needs to be supported".
"A thirst for development", this is how Vania Assenova, national director for SOS Children's Villages Benin circumscribes the country's social and economic needs. Children are the ones to suffer most from the partly precarious living conditions in the country. Reasons for this are to be found both in questionable cultural traditions and in activities against the well being of children resulting in humble conditions especially in rural areas.
"Vidomégon" is one of the great problems affecting children. Impoverished families, usually from rural areas, give their children away (mostly girls) so that they can work for wealthier families. Abuse and violence are not the exception in families who are better off. Trafficking in children to force them into child labour or prostitution is another big deplorable issue also mainly affecting girls.
How girls are treated and the kind of status they have in society is also expressed by the overall unequal standing of girls; girls only have limited access to education and health services, they are forced into marriages, but nevertheless have to provide the highest input in work performance. This are all factors which, in spite of far-reaching activities by the government in the context of awareness campaigns and support programmes, still lead to an increase in the number of abandoned children and street kids.
The SOS Children's Village will comprise twelve family houses for 120 children; a kindergarten, a social centre and a medical centre are planned to be established, too. Main focus of the social centre will be the AIDS awareness project, as AIDS infection rates in Dassa-Zoumé are among the highest throughout the country.