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Have a Voice. Have a Strong Voice

Strong Voices (formerly Jigsaw4u International) is bringing together young people from Ghana, Nigeria and the UK for a 12-month project to fundraise, researchm design and lead a conference and develop an action plan for their local area, their country and the world.

The children in the leprosy colony near Oji River, close to Enugu, have lived isolated from the rest of Nigerian society. Leprosy is a curable disease, and though most of the people in the colony do not have it, it has been a constant source of stigmatisation and discrimination for those who live there.

That is more than enough for a child to have to worry about

Except these children have another fear: a fear of being kidnapped and trafficked across the world, to be slaves, prostitutes or soldiers. Child trafficking is a crime which can be left undetected for years, estimates suggest that as many as 1.2 million children a year are trafficked across the world.

This is not a new reality, unique to the 21st century or to Nigeria – Victorian England was shocked when Thomas William Stead uncovered the use of young English girls as prostitutes in brothels throughout Europe2. One would hope that 100 years was enough time to stop this from happening. Yet trafficking is still a reality today and looks set to remain one in the future.

What is just as disturbing, is the fact that children and young people trafficked from Nigeria, can easily end up here, in the UK, exploited as domestic slaves, sex slaves or in cannibis factories, with no rights and nobody aware of their plight3. This is a sign of a bigger UK problem: children are trafficked into, within and out of, the UK. The shocking fact is that children from the UK are trafficked, too.

This Is Not An African Problem. It Is A Global Problem

And it’s not just trafficking the Nigerian children from the leprosy colony fear. There is another terrifying possibility on their horizons: malaria. Young children are one of the groups who are most vulnerable to this disease4. Some estimates say that 70% of all those who die from malaria are under the age of 5, because they have yet to build up their immune systems enough to fight it. That is a shocking percentage of the up to 2.7 million people who are killed by the disease5 each year.

One of the young people in the colony asked if the UK was mad. As Anne pondered this idea, she asked what he meant. He talked about the fact that they keep receiving mosquito nets. They have nowhere to hang them and mosquitos don’t just bite when you’re asleep, but they make great fishing nets. Anne asked what he thought would help. His idea was to clear the rubbish and the stagnant water. Maybe the young people have the answers.

We Need A Global Solution. Young People Need To Be Part Of It

For hundreds of years, adults in the UK and across the world have been fighting to deal with these global problems. They haven’t solved them yet. Which is why, Jigsaw4u International is going to try and make a difference in a unique way. We need a new perspective and who better to tackle these problems than the people who will be affected by them. It is time to have a young person’s perspective. The Nigerian children have led us this far: they have identified their (valid) biggest fears. Now it’s young people from the UK and across Africa who, by working together have a chance to help fight these problems.

Jigsaw4u International is bringing together young people from Ghana, Nigeria and the UK for a 12-month project to fundraise, research design and lead a conference and develop an action plan for their local area, their country and the world.

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