Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world, with permanent political instability and an extremely young population. It is therefore one of the many African countries where people dream of reaching rich Europe to improve their standard of living and that of their families.
The problem isn’t migration itself, a constant phenomenon in the history of humanity, as people have always moved in search of better economic conditions. The problem is the consequences of irregular migration, the phenomenon for which people migrate from one country to another without the necessary documents.
Those who migrate irregularly make a highly risky journey, in which it is possible to die or suffer violence of any kind. If he succeeded to reach his destination, he will have no chance of finding a regular job and will inevitably end up in the clutches of unscrupulous people and organizations.
To prevent young Guineans from embarking on these dangerous undocumented “journeys of hope”, Mani Tese, through the project “Restart from young people: promoters of local development and conscious migration” co-financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, seeks to inform the youth and female population about the risks of irregular migration and the opportunities that Guinea-Bissau offers.
The project is carried out in Gabu, a city where the migratory phenomenon is very strong. Many people here have relatives and friends who live in Europe. Assanatu, for example, has a father in Spain who works in agriculture. Bubaca has uncles who live in Verona, Italy.
Walking through Gabu it’s easy to notice some very beautiful and comfortable houses which contrast with most of the other houses. Many of these residences belong to migrants who have been successful, or presumed to be, outside the country. This, combined with the stories of family and friends, may lead one to think that achieving wealth in the old continent is a simple thing.
But that’s not the case at all. The dream of a better life, on the other hand, collides with harsh reality. Mustafà, for example, tells us about his cousin, who reached Italy by boat, but who wants to return to Guinea-Bissau due to the impossibility of finding a decent job. Mustafà also wanted to leave for Europe, but he gave up precisely because of his cousin’s experience.
Mani Tese’s work consists in raising awareness among the population most affected by the migratory phenomenon, the youth, explaining the dangers of irregular migration and the opportunities that Guinea-Bissau can offer. This is an awareness-raising activity that takes place through radio programs, the media most used by Guineans, and the Djumbai.
Djumbai is a traditional hangout where people from a community get together and discuss a topic. In our case, the Djumbai are held by the social animator, Lourenço Mané, by the psychologist Paula Sim Najute and by the local partner, the Focal Point of PONGAB.
This practice of exchange of ideas is aimed, in particular, at the young population, since they are the most affected by the migratory phenomenon, and at the female population. In reality, female migration in Guinea-Bissau is almost absent, but the involvement of women is very important: they are mothers and wives who have an important role in the choice or renunciation of migration by a family member. The involvement of family members in correct information on irregular migration is very important, because it’s often the family that supports and even pushes a young person to emigrate, thus hoping to improve their living conditions.
The Djumbai organized by Mani Tese are not limited only to informing about the risks of irregular migration, but also to explaining the opportunities that exist in Guinea-Bissau and how to use their skills, abilities and skills to improve their living conditions. The opportunities are different, the important thing is to understand how to look for them and exploit them. It is possible, for example, to exploit the land for agriculture that isn’t limited to subsistence but which aims at selling its products to neighboring countries, essentially desert (such as Senegal).
Rita, called Tchampu, is a person who has become aware of their abilities. She understood that she was very good at cooking and that her cooking was highly appreciated when she worked in a restaurant in Gabu. So, with a small loan, she managed to open a small restaurant in the city center, where she prepares local dishes and with which she manages to support herself and her 4-year-old daughter.
There is still a lot of work to be done to make people understand the risks of irregular migration and the opportunities that Guinea-Bissau offers, but the sensitization of Mani Tese has certainly increased awareness on this issue and sparked debate and comparisons among people, who have realized that they have common opinions and stories. The Djumbai will not stop the migratory flow, which is a human phenomenon, but they are making people more aware. Now they know that migration is not the only way out of poverty and that they can find new and alternative opportunities in their country.
Here are some photos of traditional Djumbai and of a radio station that broadcasts our messages to raise awareness of irregular migration: