The story of a courageous girl fighting her way from the street back into society.
The first time Aya* came to Cavoequiva has been several months ago. Clément Irié Bi, founder and president of the NGO, remembers her childlike button eyes and petite stature when he first saw the young girl in a group of homeless children asking for food at the community transit centre. Today, Aya is back. Although she has returned without the street kids, she has not come alone.
As she stood there on the threshold, she was carrying a baby inside her body.
Aya was born in a remote village in the Ivory Coast where she spent her early childhood years with her parents. One day, she was brought to town by her uncle. The lady, who accommodated her, made her work as a sales girl of small items for several months. Having worked for several years without receiving her salary that was paid to her uncle instead, she was beaten everyime she dared to claim her money. Unable to bear the pain, she ran away to search for a better life on the street.
At the time, when Aya had left her home and family behind to move to town, she was no more than 9 years old.
Paralyzed by helplessness, she joined a group of homeless children who soon became her new family on the streets of Adjamé, a very popular neighborhood in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, known of by its social unrest and crime.
Following the example of the elder group members, the children quickly learned to sell anything they managed to get into possession of. Nonetheless, the rough living conditions on the street did not leave them any other choice than to rely on themselves for survival in a labyrinth of drugs, violence and prostitution. Driven by despair, Aya decided to sell what she considered her most precious possession: her own body.
When Aya started her battle of survival, she was hardly 12 years old.
It’s been only a few weeks now since Aya has been staying at Cavoequiva. Here, she has started to smile again and has begun to think about future plans with excitement.
Reintegrate into society. Become a hairdresser. Start a family. Rediscover her own human values. Help other children in need….
The community transit centre is bound to be her springboard to dive in into a self-determined life full of optimism and confidence.
Today, Aya is around 16 years old.
Based in Adjamé, a community of Abidjan known for its social unrest and crime, Cavoequiva shelters around 31 underage girls who have been subject to abuse and trafficking.
Their mission is to promote social well-being and human rights, particularly for women and children. Therefore, the NGO is actively involved in initiatives in both health and school education aimed at positive social impact. Founded in 2003 and transformed into a transit centre in 2011, Cavoequiva has been heaving numerous challenges to fulfill the day-to-day needs of the numerous children. Its key focus has become today the social reintegration of vulnerable minors in cooperation with the local police, social centres and the Ministry of Women, Children and Solidarity of the Ivory Coast.
Finally, someone lends an ear to the children and defends their rights.
For Clément Irié Bi this activity has become his life project which requires far more than passion, determination and perseverance. Indeed, it takes love. Love for all those whom he can prevent from helplessness, despair and self-abandonment.
Love for all those to whom Cavoequiva can give a life full of opportunities and the chance to realize themselves.
* name changed for reasons of anonymity
** “Cavoequiva” means let us unite in Gourou