Children & Giving:
In 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
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.
(Last 2 paragraphs is an abridged summary).