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The Zou-Abeokuta Case Study

I do not want the reader to be under the misimpression that all is ‘rosy’ in Benin or that more socio-centric environments such as this are without their inequalities, power imbalances or injustices. These all exist, and we will see some of them in this chapter. What I wish to emphasise, however, is that what the anti- child trafficking establishment understands and polices as child trafficking can be and is understood very differently indeed by the children, adolescents and communities concerned. Where ‘childhood’ and ‘family’ have different meanings, so too do ‘development,’ ‘care,’ ‘justice’ and ‘exploitation.’ This section will make this point even clearer. It will do so by delving into a ‘case study within a case study.’ That is, by looking in empirical detail at the flow of adolescent labour migrants from Benin’s southern Zou region to the artisanal gravel quarries of Abeokuta, Nigeria. The anti-trafficking regime in Benin and beyond has characterised this flow as the paradigmatic case of child trafficking in the region, often equating it with slavery and describing it in anti-trafficking sensitisation material using the Fon word, Kanoumon, which means enslavement. But my findings from interviews with migrant boys and their communities paint an altogether different picture...

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