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Children In Gambia
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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 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.

Child Abuse:
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.

(Immediately above is an abridged summary).
Unicef (2003)

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