News from Maison de la Gare

It's Official ... Issa is a "Hero"

Secretary of State John Kerry honors Issa Kouyaté as a Hero of the struggle against child trafficking

Every year the U.S. State Department honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking, the highlight of release of its annual report on progress in countries around the world.

Issa was presented to Secretary Kerry with these words: "In recognition of his selfless dedication to protecting talibés, his commitment to providing them comprehensive care, and his vital role in building support among local officials to prevent human trafficking, Issa Kouyaté ..."

This is Issa's personal report of the experience:

"My journey to the US to receive the TIP Hero award was one the most moving experiences of my professional life. This award honors all of the work that Maison de la Gare has done over the past five years, especially in child protection. The report covers the world and gives each country a sense of where it stands in the areas of corruption, human trafficking and respect of international conventions that it has ratified.

The visit brought together nine individuals from different countries who are leaders in the struggle against trafficking. Each of these counties has its own challenges. For Senegal, represented by Maison de la Gare, the problem area is street children and children who are suffering abuse or are otherwise in vulnerable situations.

I met first in Dakar with U.S. Ambassador James Zumwalt who congratulated me for the tremendous work that Maison de la Gare does. The Embassy covered my travel expenses.

In Washington we visited organizations like Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors. And we learned in our exchanges that there are trafficking victims everywhere, even in the United States. The meetings were successful, as many of these organizations want to stay in touch with us and our work. We were also taken on a guided tour around Washington, visiting its monuments and statues; this helped us to understand the past and how it links the present with the future.

It was in meetings with Ambassador Susan Coppedge (Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons) and Secretary of State John Kerry that I really appreciated the impact of what we are doing. Although we are on the other side of the world, we are key players in this struggle. I became aware of how important our work is and how much we have accomplished in so short a time. This has required great sacrifices and these leaders acknowledged this with generosity and conviction. I have reached a point personally where there is no room for error, especially in protecting the children.

This award is very important for the thousands of people struggling to end human trafficking. The Secretary of State and the ambassador took us into their confidence, emphasizing the importance of our work for the entire world. We also met with US security chiefs who explained how they work to fight against human trafficking.

Many issues raised during the visit focused on the situation of talibé children in Senegal. As the Senegalese representative, I had to explain the roles of Maison de la Gare and various government services. In fact, the very next day the Senegalese government announced a decision about stabilizing the situation of street children, a decision to ban begging of street children throughout the country.

I returned home satisfied and full of hope that the children's situation and their living conditions will change for the better in the near future."