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Talibé Children and Forced Begging in Senegal: Analysis of a Complex Problem with a Social Norms Perspective Social Norms Course University of Pennsylvania.

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Presentation on theme: "Talibé Children and Forced Begging in Senegal: Analysis of a Complex Problem with a Social Norms Perspective Social Norms Course University of Pennsylvania."— Presentation transcript:

1 Talibé Children and Forced Begging in Senegal: Analysis of a Complex Problem with a Social Norms Perspective Social Norms Course University of Pennsylvania 13 July 2012 J. Keane

2 Background 95 % of population is Muslim – draws heavily on Sufism Great emphasis on lack of materialism Marabout as spiritual guides, disciples (talibé) should be strictly obedient Emphasis on learning about Islam from teachers and not exclusively from books 4 brotherhoods (Tijaniyya – 50%) and (Muridiyya – 30%) – significant political power

3 Background (2) Koranic schools (daara) – principal form of education before French arrival, during colonialism – Many studied in villages and lived at home but some also studied in distant villages – Focus on studying Koran, some work/begging for food – French attempts to regulate were unsuccessful 1970s/80s - move to urban centers

4 The issue today ~ 50,000 talibés are forced to beg by their marabout up to 10 hours/day 90 % of child beggars in Dakar are talibés (58 % from Senegal, 30 % from Guinea Bissau). Majority from poor remote areas; 67% enter before age 8 If they fail to bring back daily quota, often abused/beaten Often not provided with food, adequate shelter or healthcare *Not all daaras in urban areas operate like this

5 Parents’ Beliefs and Expectations Religious education is extremely important for children and families to become closer to Allah, and daara in urban areas are the best options. Related to lack of educational opportunities, poor quality of local schools But could also be related to ‘distance is a good thing’, sacrifice, prospects of social mobility Not clear if there are empirical or normative expectations re: sending children to urban daara Possible sanctions could include not being seen as ‘good parents’ or ‘good Muslims’ Would parents still send children to urban daara if opportunities were available locally?

6 Parents’ Beliefs and Expectations (2) Forced begging is an acceptable form of ‘work’ that children should endure as part of their religious education and in order to prepare them for hardships in life. “Street = farm; money = groundnuts” Not clear whether empirical or normative expectations exist re: tolerance of forced begging But grounded in a moral norm Acceptance does vary Some children sent back after being returned home

7 Parents’ Beliefs and Expectations (3) The marabout knows what is best for the well-being of children and for their religious and spiritual development. Authoritative religious figures, often a relative or respected community member = high level of trust, difficult to say “no” Not clear whether empirical and normative expectations exist but likely Appear to be sanctions (social shame, threats, discrimination, etc.) “[The beating] was an accident and my son had no right to humiliate the marabout....The day they took the marabout to prison, it hurt me so much it was as if they had come to jail me.” Personal preferences re: sending children/acceptance of harsh treatment may be affected by this social norm

8 Marabouts’ Beliefs and Expectations Many marabouts have expressed anger over ‘false marabout’ But not publicly speaking out. And leaders of brotherhoods are silent. What are the beliefs and social expectations of marabouts? – How do they think parents, other marabouts expect them to act? – What constitutes a ‘good marabout’? - Possibility to create new social norm against forced begging? Need to better understand beliefs and social expectations around ‘code of silence’ – Sanctions for breaking this?

9 Interventions so far Advocacy for legislative reform and implementation of 2005 law on forced begging Social protection – cash transfers Modernization of daara Direct assistance to marabouts in urban areas and talibés Moving urban daara to rural villages Advocacy, social mobilisation and parent education – Strategy on advocacy and communication on social change, especially against begging and FGC (rel networks, media, govt) – Tostan – in 2010, CP module added to CEP, Commissions for CP = 4 regions, 64 villages

10 Suggestions with a social norms perspective For effective prevention, need to better understand parents’ main motivations, possible links with social expectations – Perhaps need to know more about factors behind choosing marabout/daara – Network analysis (parents, marabouts and other rel leaders, other community members) – consider ethnic groups/brotherhoods – Need to build on positive core values and support discovery of positive alternatives, perhaps through deliberation, involving parents, marabouts/rel leaders, children – Could identify core groups of parents who keep children at home, do not agree with harsh treatment/forced begging

11 Suggestions (2) Acquire greater understanding of beliefs and social expectations of marabouts and what perpetuates the code of silence Seek ways to make beliefs explicit – Possibly re-categorize the problem so marabouts and brotherhoods are not viewed as criminals but focus on the practice itself and how it’s not in line with Islam – Focus on positive practices of ‘good marabouts’, ‘good parents’ that support core beliefs – Possibly involve marabouts and communities in monitoring to build trust? Need to better understand networks – who is important to the marabouts (those who are exploitative and those who are not) – relations between networks of brotherhoods, etc. Possibly identify core group of religious leaders, including marabouts who are critical of the practice of forced begging and who could also support ideal of keeping children within families

12 Suggestions (3) Better understand role of alms giving and how moral obligation to give can possibly be channelled positively Maintain a focus on prevention and a systemic approach (integrated services and access to education, social protection, etc.) But ensure that interventions address core beliefs and moral and social norms and engage all relevant stakeholders, including parents, children, marabouts and religious leaders, broader community Strengthen cooperation with Guinea-Bissau, including on employing social norms perspective to the issue


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