A non-governmental organisation, Sexual Offences Awareness and Response (SOAR) Initiative, has taken its advocacy campaign against child sexual violence to Wuna, a rural community in Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The sensitization exercise which held on Friday, began with a walk from the Wuna Primary School playground round the entire community with trained volunteers and members of the community, advising parents and guardians to protect their children and wards from sexual violence and other forms of child’s rights violations.
While marching round the community, Chairman of the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC), Mr. Sani Isiaka Hakuri alongside his colleagues and officials of SOAR Initiatives, handed handbills containing vital information on how and who to report cases of child sexual abuse to when they occur.
With a loud megaphone in hand, Mr. Hakuri and SOAR Initiative’s project officer on CCPC, Mr. Ameh Johnson, informed the locals in their local dialects of Gwari and Hausa that, “children are most likely to experience sexual abuse at homes, schools, on farms and riversides,” adding that parents and guardians as well as the entire community had a moral and legal responsibility to report cases of child sexual abuse with a view to getting help for the victim. In a remark, the Executive Director, SOAR Initiative, Mrs. Chinyere Eyoh, said her organisation chose to work in rural communities as part of efforts towards tackling sexual violence against children.
“As an organisation that cares about the safety and wellbeing of children and women, we decided to begin working in communities at the grassroots, because having worked in schools exclusively for five years, we recognise that a lot of the cases we were handling and addressing; the issue of school children who were being abused at home and only discovered in school through the structures that we established in schools.
“But the issue of ‘culture of silence’ was really thick and when parents got to know through our interventions, that is why we have set up the CCPC so that we start first with the community leadership; to try and help them recognise that sexual abuse (and other forms of violence against) is a crime against the state and should not be settled at the family or community level.
“The implication of not bringing the perpetrator to book is that more children in the community and society at large would be exposed to sexual predators.
“So, the CCPC members have been trained and exposed to the various lies that encourage sexual violence against children to thrive; one such is the culture-of-silence, victim-blaming, that is, blaming the child rather than the perpetrator that carried out the dastardly act.
“They have been sufficiently trained and linked up with service providers like the Gwagwalada Area Council department that is responsible for addressing issues of sexual violence, the Child and Social Welfare Unit and the gender department at the police as well as other stakeholders.
“The whole idea is to get them to act and to ensure that cases are not covered-up. And to continually sensitize the community on the need to break that silence I talked about earlier, and understand that if they don’t report cases, they are putting their own children in danger.
“The CCPC members are indigenes and inhabitants of Wuna community. We work with them to come up with action plans, so that all round the year, they have activities that they carry out. Also, we produced materials like handbills with CCPC members’ phone lines with key messages on the need to report sexual violations.” Speaking further on the project which was supported by the European Union and the British Council, the SOAR Initiative boss disclosed that, “Apart from our programmes at schools and communities, we also run a place called the SOAR Child and Teen Support Centre, which provides psycho-social supports in terms of counseling for child victims of sexual abuse.
“We understand that when a child is abused, the whole lot of the focus and attention goes on trying to bring the perpetrator to justice, while forgetting that that child has been traumatized and exposed to an experience that can mar him or her for life if that child does not receive targeted professional help.
“So, our organisation has tried to close that gap by providing free psycho-social support services to victims of sexual violence. While we refer them to address the issue of legal, we take them through four compulsory counseling sessions, and we review intermittently to determine other areas of support that they need,” Eyoh explained.
In a goodwill message, the Executive Chairman, Gwagwalada Area Council, Hon. Mustapha Danze, who was represented by Helen Alfred Gugong, charged the CCPC to be diligent in its task of sensitising members of Wanu community on the dangers of child sexual abuse.
The council boss warned the committee against favouritism and cover-up in reporting issues of child sexual abuse to the council’s gender department and other relevant agencies of government in charge of such matters. One of the key highlights of the rally was the inauguration of the CCPC by the traditional ruler of Wuna community, His Royal Highness, Isah Yusuf.
In his remarks, the royal father admonished the 20-member committee comprising men, women and young girls on the need to discharge their responsibilities with utmost sincerity and courage.
He advised his subjects to report cases of child sexual abuse to the committee, and warned against complacency on the part of parents and guardians.
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