Children & Giving:
Gambia, you will see plenty of children. The median age of Gambians
is 17.5 and few are shy when it comes to toubabs. Most will at
least stop what they are doing to stare and call "Toubab!"
when you pass, and a good percentage will ask for minties, pens,
or dalasi. Some kids will hold your hand or shake your hand or
present palms for a high five.
No matter how cute the children of Gambia are, it is unadvisable
to give out money or candy to random kids on the street, as this
promotes begging, and at the very least surprisingly vicious fighting
over scarce goods. Instead, give donations to a children's charity
operating in West Africa.
One of the most disturbing sights is seeing a tourist throw candy
from the back of a jeep. Not only is this extremely dehumanizing,
but kids sometimes do hurt each other when scrambling to get a
coveted minty. If you want to give away candy or writing utensils,
it is best to give them to a school or organization, or to the
head of a family you have befriended, where they can be distributed
fairly. You could also do teacher volunteering in schools or other
places that provide education or assistance to children. There
are many ways to help children sans money or minties, and the
reward—little beaming faces with bright eyes and huge smiles—is
definitely worth aiming for.
Research shows that children abused through prostitution can be
as young as 10 years old in the Gambia. In some cases older girls,
aged over 15 say that they are younger and virgins in order to
attract customers. Research also found that some tourists convince
themselves that a child is older than they really are to allay
their guilt in having sex with them. Child sex tourism is particularly
prevalent around the Tourist Development Area,
which includes Kololi, Senegambia and Pipeline.
Although there are some cases of children being pressurised into
prostitution by their family, an intermediary is often absent
and children work alone or in a small group. Sometimes an older
‘brother’ may set up the transaction, but may not be forcing the
girl to prostitute herself. In other cases, a man may become known
to tourists as a good ‘intermediary’ and be recommended to their
friends. In this case, the ‘intermediary’ will be paid by both
the tourist and the child to initiate contact.
above is an abridged summary).