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How and Why Migratory Decisions Are Made

My data clearly call into question much of what we see in the antitrafficking discourse, in particular its many sensationalist depictions of brutal working conditions. But what of the decision-making that leads young people to these working conditions? The dominant discourse says that they have been ‘sold’ by their heartless parents, or tricked and trapped by ruthless traffickers. Is this true? Do my empirics bear it out? Patently they do not. And in this and the following section, we will see that when looking in detail at the hows and whys of decision-making around mobility from Za-Kpota and Zogbodomey to Abeokuta (and beyond).

We will begin with decisions made by parents or guardians. In accordance with local developmental norms, these are typically made when boys are young or in their early teens and thus haven’t quite reached social adulthood. Sometimes the decision will be a proactive attempt to secure learning, economic opportunities or advancement for the youngster. But oftentimes it is a tragic consequence of extreme poverty and poverty- related crisis. In the following section, we will examine the mobility of older teens. These teens are close to social adulthood and are very well informed both about their social responsibilities and about the kind of work that awaits them when they migrate. As such, I have no evidence of their being tricked or trapped by traffickers; rather, they make independent or collaborative decisions predominantly for their or their families’ advancement.

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