In the grip of Benin's child traffickers.
By Mike Thomson BBC News, Cotonou.
Rafine was just five years old when her father hired her out to child traffickers. He had done the same with all of her brothers and sisters since finding himself a new wife. Due to poverty, children in Benin's villages are vulnerable to trafficking Besides, money was on the table. He had been promised a share of the proceeds from her work as an unpaid domestic servant. Soon afterwards, a woman took her away and she was placed with a family a few miles away where she was told to cook, clean and look after the children. In return she was given just enough food to survive and told to eat off the cat's plates and sleep on the kitchen floor.
Horrified at the treatment she received, little Rafine told her father, who visited her occasionally, that she hated it there and was desperate to come home.
Threatened He angrily replied this was out of the question and warned her of what would happen if she disobeyed him: "My father threatened me that if he heard that I went back to the village he would butcher me with a machete. He said that. He would butcher me with a machete." A child should stay with her mother no matter how poor that woman is.
Rafine, who ran away after four years of forced labour, is just one of 50,000 children who are trafficked each year in Benin. The country is one of the poorest in the world and many parents cannot resist the trafficker's promises. They are told that their children will earn enough to send home large sums of money and will also be given a good education. In reality many of the children are smuggled into neighbouring Nigeria and used for backbreaking work in quarries.
Others are even shipped off to Europe as domestic slaves. Sadly, little if any money is ever paid and some parents often do not see their child for years, if ever again.