Antoinette Zoumanigui, C’17, studies forced child begging in Senegal, working to galvanize change for the young children engaged in it. Her concern for the issue took root when she herself was growing up there. “Children came to my family’s door, and we gave them sugar and rice,” she says. “I really started thinking seriously about what I could do when I was a freshman in 2013 and saw news coverage of a horrible fire that killed nine of the child beggars.”
In response, Zoumanigui founded a nonprofit called Kids of Dakar to support projects that help these Senegalese children. This year, Brill’s International Journal of Children’s Rights published her paper on the subject, putting her work in front of global children’s rights advocates, academics, and policy makers.
The paper was the culmination of research that Zoumanigui began her first year at Penn. In 2015, she received a Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant for fieldwork in Senegal to explore the question. She cites multiple factors that perpetuate forced child begging, including parental motivation, people believing that the giving of alms is good citizenship, and the lack of accountability from government and religious authorities for the abusive nature of the phenomenon.
Zoumanigui says that solutions can come only from earnest collaboration and frank and honest conversation among all involved. Zoumanigui also earned a 2016 Projects for Peace prize, which she will use to develop a health program for street children in Saly Mbour, Senegal.