This paper challenges policy discourses that frame children’s independent movement as intrinsically exploitative and threatening to their development. Drawing on research with children and adults in Benin and Ethiopia, two countries caught up in current efforts to eradicate child migration and the trafficking with which it has become associated, the paper critiques assumptions about children’s vulnerability and physical dependence and contests the idea that appropriate childhood is necessarily fixed spatially within stable family structures. It thus situates children’s migration within socio-cultural and economic contexts and suggests that it should be understood as part of a moral economy that confounds simplistic paradigms that conflate migration with trafficking. Policy suggestions are offered for how best to guarantee children’s well-being through acknowledgement of the important relationship between mobility and child maturation.
- child trafficking