Defence for Children International steps up efforts to combat Sexual Exploitation of children in Sierra Leone
Defence for Children International -Sierra Leone empowers survivors of child sexual exploitation to become advocates and create a unified voice against the Sexual Exploitation of Children (SEC) in Sierra Leone.
Sexual abuse and exploitation are grave human rights violation, which particularly affect women and children. In Sierra Leone alone, 2,201 cases of sexual assault were reported to the Family Support Unit in 2014 - this up from 1,485 in 2013 . In spite of prohibition in international, regional and national laws, the practice remains widespread. Persistent poverty, specific position and vulnerabilities of children and women, and the general lack of knowledge and awareness about the issue are all to blame.
Sexual exploitation is a clear and serious threat to boys’ and girls’ rights to life and health, and limits their future prospects. Teenage girls pressed into sexual exploitation often become pregnant, and face increased risks of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy-related complications remain today a leading cause of death among girl teenagers in Sierra Leone.
Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone (DCI-SL), with support from ECPAT International, organised a National Consultation on “Survivors of Childhood Sexual Exploitation” reaching out to young women and men who experienced sexual exploitation in their childhood in Freetown, Kenema, Bombali and Bo districts. The consultation was held in Freetown on 27 September 2016 with a total of 30 sexual exploitation and abuse survivors and social workers participated in.
During the consultation, DCI-SL regional project officer, Ms. Nandi Zulu, reminded that, instead of receiving appropriate support, victims of sexual exploitation continued to face discrimination and stigmatization, hence negatively influencing their ability to complete education, access economic assets and opportunities. She added that although Sierra Leone had made progress in reducing sexual exploitation, it still remained far from achieving the goals set in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation actively participated in the consultation, bringing unique insights and drawing particular attention on the various interrelated issues that come along with sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, early marriage, school dropout, financial constraints and family separation. They also highlighted areas to focus on in order to better fight against child sexual exploitation. First, raising awareness and sharing knowledge on the issue and relevant laws and policies must be improved and target both survivors and the wider public. Second, laws and policies must be properly implemented. Third, survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation must have access to assets and opportunities for youth entrepreneurship including financial assistance and capacity building. And finally, equal access to post primary education for pregnant girls and young woman must be ensured at all times.
Rebuilding their shattered lives
At the end of the consultation, survivors of child sexual exploitation agree on a “Bill of Rights”, which states the specific rights of child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in Sierra Leone. They also agreed on a call for action to empower survivors through collaboration, networking and shared learning as well as amplifying their voices by conveying their recommendations to decision makers. This will encourage governments to initiate actions that will involve survivors in the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets related to the sexual exploitation of children.
Participants welcomed the initiative and praised DCI-SL while at the same time calling on all Sierra Leoneans to show solidarity with boys, girls and young women survivors of sexual exploitation. One of the survivors said, “I thought, I have been through the worst but today I have learnt that many other women went through the same or even worse situations. I don’t feel alone anymore”.
Survivors of childhood sexual exploitation and abuse crimes have now become powerful catalyst for change to lead and step up coordinated efforts to effectively combat sexual exploitation in all its forms in Sierra Leone.
Humanist Watch Salone. 2014 Annual Report -
Defence for Children International takes effective measures to combat child trafficking in West Africa
National sections of Defence for Children International (DCI) in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone train border security and immigration officials and local community actors to reinforce child protection systems and better prevent and combat child trafficking.
Fifteen years after the adoption of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) declaration, and subsequent plan of action on the fight against trafficking in persons, child trafficking remains a reality in the region, particularly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. As stated by the United States Department of State, the three above-mentioned countries continue to be, in 2016, source, transit and/or destination countries for children subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation . The trafficking of children occurs both internally, mainly from rural to urban areas, and externally, mostly towards Middle-Eastern, European and other African countries.
Whilst open borders within the Mano River Union (MRU - Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Ivory Coast) and the wider ECOWAS region have enhanced free trade and people’s freedom of movement, they have also made the control of children’s movements across borders more laborious. Indeed, it is often difficult to distinguish between illegal cross-border activities and legitimate family cross-border transit or migration. Instances of corruption among security agencies only add to the problem and put children at higher risk of trafficking. Moreover, after the Ebola Virus Disease broke out in 2013, many children became orphans, found themselves left alone and/or ended up in highly vulnerable situations whilst existing child protection systems in the three countries were seriously weakened and could barely respond to the protection needs of children. As it has been shown in previous times of crisis (e.g. past civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia), the recent Ebola epidemic drastically increased the risk and occurrence of child trafficking.
Responding to immediate child protection challenges
With the support of the Fund for Global Human Rights upon announcement of the end of the Ebola epidemic and subsequent re-opening of borders in affected countries, Sabou/DCI-Guinea, DCI-Liberia and DCI-Sierra Leone met in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in November 2015 to discuss post-Ebola challenges and agreed on the need to provide support to security agencies to better prevent and respond to child trafficking. Follow-up meetings with security and immigration officials took place in March 2016 at the Genedema/Bo border between Sierra Leone and Liberia and the Gbalamuya/Pamelap border between Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Officials attending the March meetings raised concerns over four key issues. First, they confessed that most of them have very little knowledge in regard to laws and policies on trafficking in persons. Second, they stated that the borders are porous with several illegal crossing points and that the lack of resources allocated to border security has not allowed them to work with local communities on this issue. Third, the lack of resources is also flagrant when it comes to deal with concrete cases: when alleged victims of trafficking are arrested by security officials, no structure is in place to provide them with necessary shelter and care. And fourth, they noted that a high number of children are at risk of trafficking, particularly those found at market places, wandering or selling for survival.
The three DCI national sections wasted no time to design a support programme aimed at strengthening child protection systems in border areas, and promptly reached out to key actors: border security and immigration officials, community leaders, youths and civil society organisations (CSO) such as the Motor Drivers’ Union and Commercial Bike Riders Association. Trainings were conducted in June and July 2016 both at the Guinea/Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone/Liberia borders, with a total of 128 security officials and local community actors participating in. Training sessions focused on international, regional and national policies that prohibit and criminalize child trafficking, and on a referral pathway for victims’ rehabilitation and reintegration. Three-day meetings were first held (simultaneously) on each side of the borders, whilst a final joint meeting allowed participants to agree on improved ways to collaborate and operate.
Towards a multi-level collaboration
As a key outcome of these training sessions, it was decided that trafficking in persons would be added to the agenda of the monthly joint, inter-country security meeting. This will allow security officials to regularly share updates on their efforts in the fight against child trafficking and to continuously improve their collaboration.
Trained security officials also gathered with over 500 community leaders and members in their respective areas to reinforce their collaboration. Security officials particularly explained that they were lacking manpower to control the totality of the borders and that they did not intend to flood the borders with additional security personnel as if they were at war with their neighbouring country. Rather, they engaged local communities to play an active role in preventing unofficial border crossings. Roles to be played by community leaders, members and youths were emphasized and it was agreed that communities should apply the ‘Ebola fight’ model, which was very strict against the movement of strangers through their communities and across borders, to the issue of trafficking in persons. Youths welcomed the initiative and called upon security officials to work closely with them in order to better combat child trafficking, smuggling and other criminal activities.
Local governments and heads of ministries in charge of children’s affairs highly praised the DCI-led initiative and encouraged security officials and community leaders and youths to refer any victim of trafficking to them as the identification and provision of appropriate support, care and other services for the victims clearly lies within their mandates.
For children, with children
To consolidate the effectiveness of its intervention, DCI reminded that it was crucial to reach out to children at risk, i.e. those that are direct targets for traffickers. Together with participants of the training sessions, DCI reached out to children in 10 schools and 4 communities, as well as those selling and/or wandering at market places in border areas. Over 2,000 children were therefore sensitized on trafficking and potential risks. For example, they were reminded to remain prudent and attentive when dealing with strangers, and to avoid such situations as much as possible. They were also explained the key characteristics of traffickers, such as fictitious generosity and empathy, specifically towards poor and vulnerable children, so that they can more easily suspect them if they come their way.
Overall, the usefulness of the border and child protection system strengthening programme goes far beyond the skills and knowledge provided to the target group. It has strengthened relationships among security agencies and community stakeholders, and subsequently facilitated pathways for efficient and effective collaborative efforts to better prevent and combat child trafficking. More importantly, it has also widened the knowledge of the three DCI national sections that initiated this programme on the gaps and needs of the frontline security mechanisms at the borders and the kind of future follow-up support programme that should be designed.
See US State Department, Trafficking in Persons, 2016 Report : http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2016/index.htm
Defence for Children Sierra Leone promotes Healing, Reconciliation and Recovery for Ebola Virus Disease Affected children and families at community level. The case of Rosanda Community Bombali- 25th July 2015
The outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone has affected the lives of over 12,000 individuals, families and communities. The impact of the virus has gone far beyond its infection and killing rate, and has created several social and economic problems for the people. The outbreak has undermined peaceful coexistence of people in the community, increased poverty and exacerbated vulnerabilities of children. Though infection rate has decreased considerably, it has left different kinds of bad legacies in the communities. These among other things include psychological impact on children for the loss of their families and blame games resulting to community tensions.
In Rosanda Community, Paki Massabong chiefdom, Bombali district a woman and family were banished from the community for bringing in an infected EVD patient that spread the disease that is believed to have killed over 50 people including women and children in the community.
It all started when one AK son of Mammy Fatu who was resident at Aberdeen in Freetown felt sick and decided to travel to her mother at Rosanda for herbal treatment. When he arrived at the community, he reported to the people that he had being to hospital in Freetown and was never tested positive for EVD. However since the hospital couldn’t cure him, he suspected that he was shot by a ‘witch gun’ and needed traditional herbal treatment.
His mother, Mammy Fatu immediately contacted all the herbalists in the community for her son’s immediate cure. All of the herbalists including other members of the community made frantic effort to cure AK but he could not make it. He died two days later and was proven to be Ebola positive. All those who came in contact with AK were all infected and the chain of transmission was very rapid in the community. Following this, over fifty community members became infected and over 95% of the infected persons died. All the family members of Mammy Fatu were infected and taken to the Matenneh treatment Center in Makeni. Mammy Fatu herself lost four (4) of her children including AK who brought the virus to the community. Mammy Fatu survived the virus and few of her siblings including; elder sister, daughter in-law (wife of AK) and five children of late family members including two children of AK.
The Rosanda community people became very angry with Mammy Fatu and her entire family for bringing the virus into their community especially for deceiving them that late AK was tested EVD negative in Freetown before he travelled to Rosanda. The community members threatened to kill Mammy Fatu and her entire remaining family members either physically or spiritually if they attempted to return to Rosanda. Since they were discharged from the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in March 2015 they have been staying at the Interim Care Centre (ICC) in Makeni. Many Agencies had attempted to resettle Mammy Fatu and family back into Rosanda but could not succeed.Go Top
Defense for Children International (DCI) included this issue in its community Ebola recovery and healing plan, which is part of a bigger ‘Care and Support for EVD affected Children’ project that UNICEF is supporting. DCI then mapped out all the stakeholders concerned with Mammy Fatu’s case and started engaging them individually. Several meetings were held with the community stakeholders separately, sounding their opinions, providing counseling and discussing possibilities for the return of Mammy Fatu and family. DCI tried to create empathy for Mammy Fatu whilst talking to the people. DCI was able to convince the people that Mammy Fatu too was a victim and has now become a double victim because she stays at a centre where she cannot live a normal life that she was used to over the years. DCI let the people know that Mammy Fatu and family were suffering at the centre and at least she would like to return to the community and say sorry and ask for forgiveness from everyone before she dies. DCI also explained to the people that Mammy Fatu’s remaining children are in poor health condition and they all often refuse to eat any food because of guilt. The separate groups that were engaged include:
This whole process took almost a month and it was going on alongside providing counseling for Mammy Fatu and her family as they were always expressing fears for their safety even where they were at that time. Since DCI found the Section Chief to be softer and willing to drive the peace process forward, DCI teamed up with the chief to continue dialogue with the people. Having spoken to all individual groups, a general community meeting was organized by DCI and the Section Chief with the blessing of the Paramount Chief. In that meeting a holistic reconciliation, healing and cleansing plan was developed covering the return of Mammy Fatu and family and healing and cleansing of children that lost their families to EVD. By the end of the meeting, the community people asked the Section Chief and DCI to inform the paramount chief and DERC that they have forgiven Mammy Fatu and family and were ready to receive and reconcile with them. On Monday, the 13th July, 2015 DCI took the Section Chief to Makeni to attend the DERC meeting so that he can convey the message of the Rosanda people to DERC about their willingness and readiness to re-accept Mammy Fatu and family.Go Top
Official Reconciliation and Cleansing event at Rosanda
On Saturday 25th July 2015, DCI in collaboration with the MSWGCA, UNICEF and DERC organized a big event at Rosanda to officially handover Mammy Fatu and family to the Paramount Chief of Paki Massabong chiefdom. The event was well attended by the Paramount Chief of Paki Massabong Chiefdom, PC Kabobom II; Paramount Chief of Bombali Shebora Chiefdom, PC Bai Shebora Kassange II; other traditional leaders and elders; dignitaries from UNICEF; MSWGCA; Ministry of Health and Sanitation; DERC; DCI; other NGOs; Social mobilizers; survivors; children and youths.
Following introduction of visitors and community elders, the Programme Manager of DCI Bombali district, Raymond Senesie gave an overview of the event, highlighting the process from the start of reconciliation move to the day of the event, the goal of the event and programme of the day. Statements were made by different officials. Making her presentation on behalf of the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, The Regional Director of MSWGCA, Madam Josephine said “survivors of Ebola are strategic pillars in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Recovery Programme” adding that “Stigma should not be tolerated if survivors should contribute to the development of their communities.” She said “let us stay at peace and forgive all those that have been affected by Ebola in the Paki Masagbong Chiefdom, Bombali district.”
Madam Josephine further said that, the reconciliation, healing and recovery ceremony for affected persons especially for Mammy Fatu and family and the children that have been affected were meant to restore hope amongst community members that all was not lost to Ebola and “it will give them the opportunity to learn from their individual mistakes that will prevent any further spread of the virus in the chiefdom, she added.
Madam Olivier Angelic from UNICEF said the unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has created a devastating social and humanitarian crisis with severe negative economic impact, thus, reversing the impressive economic growth we have achieved in recent years. So “we are happy for the ceremony as it is a significant start of a new era in the history of Sierra Leone”, adding that “community people should show concern care and forgiveness for affected persons especially women, children and the aged.” Statements were also made by the MoHS, DERC, World Hope International (on behalf of Social Mobilizers), the chair of EVD Survivors in Bombali and the leader of one of the most affected families. Following the statement of DERC, the head of DERC handed over Mammy Fatu and family to the Paramount Chief.
Receiving Mammy Fatu and her family on behalf of the chiefdom, PC Kabobom 11 of Paki Masagbong Chiefdom said “this is a very historic day for him and his people in the chiefdom and the Bombali district by extension adding that “if we do not accept them who else will do that for them?”. “let us once more live in peace and harmony,” he continued.He however warned all those who would attempt to intimidate Mammy Fatu and her family and according to him “laws of the land will take the best of action if anyone makes any attempt to abuse any survivors or EVD affected persons in his chiefdom. He however admonished his people and those directly affected by Ebola “to stay calm and report to the appropriate authority if any one intimidates or attacks them. He also admonished Mammy Fatu and family to be tolerant and pay deaf airs to side comments and gossips.
Mammy Fatu speaking in tears on behalf of her family thanked the Paramount chiefs, DCI and the entire community for bringing smiles to her face again after several months. She asked everyone to forgive her and asked the children in particular for a special forgiveness for the loss of their families.
The climax of the event was the performance of a traditional/cultural/spiritual ceremony to cleanse Mammy Fatu and family and the child orphans. The ceremony involved prayers and citations over water and locally prepared bread. The water, which was afterwards perceived to be holy following the prayers, was sprinkled on the orphans and Mammy Fatu and family.
This according to the traditional people was done to appease the dead and disconnect them from the children and Mammy Fatu and family. If this was never done, the children will continue seeing their dead family members in dream, which will affect their health and psychology. The meeting ended with refreshment and interactions. Mammy Fatu was then taken to her house by MSWGCA, DCI, UNICEF and the chiefs and were given resettlement supplies including mattresses, food items and toiletries. DCI is now planning to provide Mammy Fatu and family with some grants to engage in economic recovery activities.Go Top
DCI joins the crusade on “GRILS’ RIGHTS O EDUCATION” in Geneva
Defence for Children International Sierra Leone has joined a group of child protection experts “to discuss the social, cultural and financial barriers that exist to girls’ right to education in West Africa especially in Sierra Leone.”
The session which took place in Geneva, Switzerland attracted key child protection actors from the United Nations, the University of Essex, Europe and Africa.
Across West Africa, girls continue to face discrimination in accessing and realizing their human right to a quality education. Despite the fact that progressive policies have been developed at national levels, significant barriers to the right to education persist, including early marriage, teenage pregnancy, gender based-violence, child labour, which Abdul Manaff Kemokai, DCI Regional Representative for Africa who also doubles as the Executive Director, Defence for Children Sierra Leone believes “is still far from over.”
“We are happy for this session” Mr. Kemokai said adding that “the situation of children in Africa with emphasis in the sub-region of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is abysmal especially with the Ebola Virus Disease that has killed over 9000 people including women and children in the region.” “In Sierra Leone over 2000 children have succumbed to the virus”
Under international law, children are entitled to free compulsory primary education and state have an obligation to develop secondary education and make accessible for all.
However, across the world, children continue to face discrimination in accessing and realizing their human right to a quality education. This is especially the case for girls in the developing world, who are more likely to be illiterate and to drop out o school at an early age than their male peers.
While progress has been be made to improve enrolment rates, the child activist said “early marriage and teenage pregnancy, child sexual exploitation, the heavy burden of domestic work, female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence still stand out on the way of children’s right to education.”
For Hawanatu Mansaray, a youth who benefited from the DCI Girl Power Project, Sierra Leone, the situation of children and young women in Sierra Leone was deeply linked to “our cultural practices and customs” which she said should be addressed if the fight against “early marriage and teenage pregnancy should succeed in Sierra Leone...Go Top
“Ebola devastated me because I am physically challenged”
Alice Sam (15) from Boamawohun, Bo lost her father and is a survivor of Ebola. She is illiterate, physically challenged and has mobility issues – her story illustrates the difficulties of a girl in a typical village setting and of an unhealthy Ebola survivor.
A week after the death of her father, Alice showed signs and symptoms of Ebola and was tested positive for the disease. She however thankfully survived and since then the worse started for this young girl.
“My friends did not associate with me” Alice told us. “They called me names and I am so powerless to react. Ebola devastated me because I am physically challenged and the community did very little to protect me.”
Alice, like many survivors has acute pain that often keeps her from engaging in farm activities, this inhibits her ability to care for and provide for her enlarged family.
Alice explained “I want to be a better person, take good care of myself and help my family. My father used to do that but he is gone. I need to help my mother.”
With the intervention of DCI-Sierra Leone in her village, Alice regained her pride, respect, dignity and once more got her means of daily survival through DCI-SL’s Micro Finance Loan Scheme.
“I have moved on. At least with my palm oil business I can now take care of myself and help my family too. I no longer go to bed hungry. I am happy because my friends have accepted me too. Thanks to DCI-SL for the support.”
Furthermore, like many rural communities that were affected by Ebola Boamawohun have lost substantial portions of this year’s harvest, leaving orphans at a high risk of malnutrition and possible starvation. Female orphans have a greater exposure to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, street trading and early school dropout and in the rural setting where it is an accepted custom after the loss of a primary caregiver.
Excluding hunger and starvation, unclean water and poor sanitation are realities faced by millions worldwide. But for the people of Boamawohun amidst the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease the daily struggle is even harder.
“We still go to the forest o deposit deficit and hand washing is not common here” and access to pure drinking water was also a big challenge for the people of Boamawohun. Go Top
"We only had to stick to the rule...”
From the East of Gorama Mande Chiefdom, Kenema positioned Konta-a small community that is approximately seven (7) miles away from Mano Mayamba- a village that accounted for over 45% of Ebola related deaths in an almost forgotten chiefdom where access to safe drinking water, better sanitation, health care system, and good hygiene practices is of abysmal state.
When Ebola hit Gorama Mande Chiefdom, the inhabitants of Konta had no formal knowledge on how to prevent the disease from spilling a fatal tore or adequately responding to it but were convinced the disease might be deadly and they accepted it and “stick to the rules”.
“We stopped all inter-trade activities with Mano”, Abu Bakarr, a Konta local chief told us. “We accommodate no strangers, try to be hygienic and everyone takes it as a community fight and not a personal one.”
He said “it was difficult for me and my people but we were left with a choice-stick to the rules. After our eight (8) lost to Ebola everyone is willing to fight it- it’s a local enemy.”
Chief Bakarr says until Defence for Children came with their psychosocial support for Ebola affected children “our kids had limited hopes” and kept wondering if they would ever return to school and fulfilled their human potentials.
With a smile in his face depicting a deep scène of relief the local chief told us “our children are back to school and we are all happy again. Thanks to Defence for Children for the support. They are worthy partner.” ......................................................................................Go Top
“Ebola devastated me because I am physically challenged”
Alice Sam (15) from Bawomahun, Bo lost her father to EVD and she is also a survivor of EVD. She is never being to school before, physically challenged and has mobility issues – her story illustrates the difficulties of a girl in a typical village setting and of an unhealthy Ebola survivor. A week after the death of her father, Alice showed signs and symptoms of Ebola and was tested positive for the disease. She however survived and since then the worse started for this young and disabled girl. “My friends did not associate with me” Alice told us. “They called me names and I was so powerless to react. Ebola devastated me because I am physically challenged and the community did very little to protect me. Alice, like many survivors has acute pain that often keeps her from engaging in farm activities, and this inhibits her ability to raise money and care for her siblings.
Alice explains “I want to be a better person, take good care of myself and help my family. My father used to do that but he is gone. I need to help my mother.” With the intervention of DCI-Sierra Leone in her village, Alice regained her pride, respect, dignity and once more got her means of daily survival through DCI-SL’s Micro Finance Scheme.“I have moved on. At least with my palm oil business I can now take care of myself and help my family too. I no longer go to bed hungry. I am happy because my friends have also accepted me. Thank you to DCI-SL for the business grant.” Furthermore, like many rural communities that were affected by Ebola Bawomahun has lost substantial portions of this year’s harvest, leaving orphans and other children living in the village at a high risk of malnutrition and possible starvation. Female orphans have a greater exposure to early marriage, teenage pregnancy and early school dropout and in the rural setting where it is an accepted custom, children who are fosterd by other families are more likely tob e engaged in child labour.
Apart from hunger, unclean water and poor sanitation are realities faced by millions worldwide. But for the people of Bawomahun amidst the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease the daily struggle for water has become even harder
“It was not easy to console me…”
Yayuh Williams (31) knows how life depends on good health and sanitation. She lives in Tikonko, Sierra Leone, a small village of 500 people where farming is the major source of livelihood.
When the brutal Ebola crisis hit Tikonko Chiefdom, her household was speared as ten (10) people including her husband lost their lives to the virus. Three days after the dead of her husband, her baby son (Philip) suddenly fell sick with Ebola and was taken to the Ebola Treatment Centre at Gondama, Bo District. He however survived the disease.
“My husband was a hardworking man,” Yayuh told us. “He was called John Wiliams. It was not easy to console me. Having been here for years with a very healthy man as I saw him, I thought he was going to be my treasure in my old age but ne he is gone.”
Because of this terrible tragedy, Yayuh is now solely responsible for providing food, cloths, water, medical care amongst other basic needs for her three children. She does casual job for people to be able to raise some money to feed her family. “My children need food and want to get back to school and there is no one to help me out because my husband is dead,” she explained. “These are the reasons why I do “Gbagi-Gbagi”-casual work for my neighbours.”
The major source of survival for Yayuh and her children after the death of her husband was “Gbagi-Gbagi” (casual work) which she did for a meager wage of Five Thousands Leones ($ 1) for a day, Yayu however began to see some positive changes and improvement in her economic status when she came involved with DCI-Sierra Leone. Her story was sufficient for DCI to include her into its Ebola recovery programme for families that DCI was implanting at Ebola affected communities with financial support from ICCO Netherlands. Among other things, Yayu was supplied with some food stuff that could take them through at least two months, and her children too were supplied with school materials and were assisted to return to school.
Yayuh explains, “Now we go to bed safe and sound, pass the night happily. Life has changed completely for me and my children in terms food, health care, support and supervision. They (Defence for Children) also supported my kids with bags, books, pens, pencils, uniforms rulers, shoes etc so they can get back to school and be happy again.”
The Micro Finance Grant combined with knowledge of good hygiene practices and how to prevent and respond to Ebola have worked wonders for Yayuh and her family.
“It is almost four months since the death of my husband without complaining of Ebola related illnesses. We don’t visit the sick, touch the dead, accommodate strangers and we call 117 for any emergency.”
“. That is why we all respect the bi-law which states that no stranger should be accommodated in the village. One person will not put this community to shame.”Go Top
Defence for Children International Sierra Leone on March 8th 2015 joined the world to celebrate this year's UN-International Women Day with the global theme “MAKE IT HAPPEN”.
The program which took place at the Headquarters of DCI-Sierra Leone main office in Freetown brought together children from her operational areas in the Western Area region of the country.
Giving an official statement, DCI-Sierra Leone’s Program Manager, Hawanatu Mansaray lauded the effort of the United Nations to declare “May 8TH of every year as International Women’s Day” adding that “if Sierra Leone is to achieve gender parity especially for girls a moment of reflection into the past for possible improvement in the future is very important.”
She however added that gender inequality was a serious health and human rights concern in the world”, and like in several other developing countries, “the social standing of women and girls in Sierra Leone is deep rooted in the culture of societal discrimination by traditional customs and practices”.
Over 100 years since that first gender advocacy step was taken in America and also between 12 years since Sierra Leone had relative peace and security after 11 years of inhuman atrocities of which women and children especially girls were worst hit, Sierra Leone as a state has shown her commitment to ensuring gender parity between women and men.
But even with enactment of the Anti Human Trafficking Act-2005, Sierra Leone Citizen’s Amendment Act-2005, the three gender justice laws-Domestic Violence Act; The Devolution of Estate Act; The Customary Marriages and Divorce Act-2007, the Child Right Act-2007 and the Sexual Offence Act in 2012 which seeks to ensure justice for victims of sexual and gender abuse, the path to gender equality is still far from over in Sierra Leone being a post conflict state.
“the Gender Equality Bill which will provide for the 30% representation of women in both political parties and in public decision making bodies in the country and the Matrimonial Causes Act which intends to create equality between the parties in a divorce with focus on the best interest of a child are yet to become laws” Hawanatu said “and this is not helping our fights against gender inequality in the country” she continued.
The Ebola virus disease has worsen the already fragile situation of women and children especially girls including the physically challenged and has also eroded the gains achieved in the country’s healthcare services, especially the flagship, Free Healthcare Initiative (FHI).
It has disrupted health and education programmes; and halted the implementation of water and sanitation projects, especially in the rural areas. And according to statistic form the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs over 7000 children have been quarantined and nearly 8000 have lost at least one parent since the start of the outbreak.
Since the outbreak began, more women than men have contracted the disease and this is attributable to (i) women’s role as caregivers in their families, which places them at higher risk of exposure to the EVD; (ii) majority of health care workers are female nurses; and (iii) women are mainly engaged in informal trade in crowded open markets and at border towns. The loss of livelihood and stigma has a disproportionate effect on women and girls.
Statistics also indicate that children who have survived the Ebola virus are stigmatized and many are roaming the streets of our communities.
The elderly also face poverty and social exclusion since many of them are not eligible to pension and rely on labour and family members for income.
The physically challenged are far more affected and exposed. For instance, a blind child depends on the sense of touch, which exposes them to the disease. Additionally, many of them depend on begging on the streets that not only expose them to the disease but has also now limited their movement and sources of livelihood.
Hannah Kamara, DCI-Sierra Leone’s beneficiary form from Rokupa East from Freetown said “we are happy for this day as it brings more to us as children of Sierra Leone” but on the contrary, Aminata Sesay, another beneficiary from Adonkia, West of Freetown said “officials in strategic positions must now take action in the best interest of women and girls in Sierra Leone as plenty of paper work has been done already.”Go Top
Defence for children Sierra Leone continues to reintegrate and support children affected by Ebola
The outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone has left many children without appropriate families or caregivers. A good number of families have also lost their sources of livelihood, which deepens the vulnerability of many children. In the course of its EVD response interventions, DCI-SL had observed that most of the adults that have died of Ebola had children and that often their children are abandoned and rejected by other families and community members in fear of contracting the virus from the children. As the caseload of the affected children increased, the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs, UNICEF and key NGOs agreed to work together to address the protection and psychosocial needs of children affected. One of the decisions that were taken was to divide the districts among NGOs so that they can address protection and psychosocial needs including family tracing and reintegration of affected children across the country. Defence for Children International being one of the leading child protection NGOs in the country was assigned three districts, which include Western Area, Bombali and Kono districts.
Since August 2014 to date DCI-SL has succeeded in doing family tracing and reintegration of over 200 children. The most recent successful reintegration action was done in Kono. According to DCI-SL’s project Officer in Kono, Julian Sillah, “we have done over 45 family tracing and reunification of children in the last two months in different chiefdoms which include; Bumpeh, Gbense, Tankoro, Kamara, Nimiyama and Nimikoro chiefdom. The last three, which we concluded about a week ago, were quite crucial because of the stories and realities of the children concerned.
Finda, a 9 year old girl was one of the three last EVD affected children that were reintegrated. Finda got EVD infection together with her entire family. She was admitted at the treatment centre in Koidu together with her family in in December 2015. She was the only survivor whilst the rest of the family could not make it. Like other infected children, DCI-SL followed her case until the Ministry of Health declared her a survivor. She was then removed from the treatment centre and taken to the observation centre. The observation centre serves as a place to observe the health status of survivors discharged from treatment centres for a couple of weeks before they are finally taken back to their communites. Before Finda was discharged from the observation centre, DCI-SL visited her original community to search for an alternative caregiver, owing to the fact that both the mother and father had died at the treatment centre and the national child protection standards urge every agency to use orphanage as a measure of last resort for children orphaned by EVD. Fortunately DCI-SL was able to discover a grand aunt of Finda in the same community where Finda and her late parents used to live. On the hearing of the news that Finda has survived, the entire community went into jubilation because at least one member of the affected family survived and can continue their generation. DCI-SL then followed all the procedures that guide family tracing and reintegration of children to prepare the newly identified grand aunt and her family to receive Finda. DCI-SL then organized a big meeting with the authorities and other members of the community to counsel and educate them about the status of Finda in order to prevent any iota of stigmatization. Hence members of the entire Bayama Gbense community were educated about Ebola and how Survivors and orphans should be treated in the community and at the end of the meeting, a date was fixed for the return of Finda. On the day of the reunification event, a team comprising DCI-SL, the District Health Management Team, IFRC, UNICEF, WHO and Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and children’s affairs took Finda to the community. Following all the formalities, a dramatic handing over and welcoming ceremony was done wherein the health team embraced Finda as a survivor, followed by the representatives of the different agencies that were present and then the elders too of the Bayama community. This was to prove to everyone that Finda was totally safe to touch or to be touched by everyone without any health implications.
She was then handed over together with her reintegration package to her grand aunt through the town chief in the presence of the elders, the community Ebola taskforce members and other members of the community. DCI-SL continues to do follow up visit on Finda in order to check on her care and protection. It is however important to note that Finda and everyother EVD affected child that have been reintegrated would require continuing recovery support from their families, the community, government and external agencies including UNICEF and NGOs
Defence for Children Sierra Leone empowers her staff to step up their psychosocial interventions for children affected by Ebola
Defence for Children International Sierra Leone has ended a five days training for her staff ‘‘on how to provide psychosocial support to children that have experienced traumatic events as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease”. The five days training was conducted in collaboration with the Isrea-Aid in Freetown and ended on Friday 27th February 2015. The training brought together Program Managers, Projects Officers, and Social Workers from all DCI-Sierra Leone’s operational areas (6 districts) in the country. Since the outbreak of the disease in the country and with the launching of its ‘’Kick Ebola Out of Sierra Leone Campaign’’, Defence for Children International has been very instrumental in providing first aid psychosocial service to children affected by the Ebola in its operational areas in the country.
With Sierra Leone being one of the most affected countries – the disease is destroying health systems and has evolved into a complex emergency, with significant political, social, economic, humanitarian and security dimensions. Also, more people are now dying in the country from treatable illnesses and common medical conditions than from Ebola. But despite the fact that around 2,000 children are reported to have been robbed of their parents since the outbreak began, Sierra Leone has experienced a decline in the infection rate of EVD in the last few weeks.
Thus, with the reduction in the infection rate of Ebola, the need for more skills to support psychosocial recovery for affected children cannot be over emphasized because such skills will help to restore the psychosocial status of children and promote their development process. A vision DCI shears with UNICEF and other child protection organizations in the country.
The training which was facilitated by IsraAid - a humanitarian organisation providing psychological trainings and supervision for people working with Ebola affected persons was aimed at equipping staff with the relevant knowledge and skills to support children avoid or recover from trauma and at the same time take care of themselves while helping children.
The five day training was focused on key issues which include but not limited to identifying trauma on children; sources of information and techniques for soliciting information on the situation of children; tools for intervening in the situation of children; reviewing and testing of interview tools and on the final day of the training, the discussion continued with intervention skills and the essence of play and empathy.
Making her presentation on Trauma, Self Care and Listening with intention, Ms. Naama, one of the facilitators from IsreaAid said “Psychosocial support is not just about getting information from children, it is also about creating the space and friendly environment for the child to talk” adding that “the child should feel safe to talk to a social worker.” The last three days of the training ended with supervision of cases. Some participants presented a typical case they have dealt with and the group suggested ways of dealing with the case. Ms. Naama further said that, these sessions were meant to make participants practice some of the skills and knowledge they have acquired from each day of the training and “it will give them the opportunity to learn some principles that were not discussed during the main theory sessions, she added.
Hawanatu Mansaray is DCI-Sierra Leone’s Program Manager. “We are happy for the training”, she said adding that “it will add to our already existing skills as social workers in providing psychosocial services to individuals especially children going through trauma, during and even after the end of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.”
“The training is good for us as child protection officers because it will help us support children deal with traumatic experiences. Sierra Leone is a country where children face lots of challenges that affect them psychologically. On a daily basis we come across children that require psychosocial support. Now that we have got adequate knowledge and the relevant skills and methodology, we can easily identify and support children that have had traumatic experience. We can also use the skills learnt to engage adolescents and prevent them from engaging in sexual activities that would give them early and unwanted pregnancy.” Koma Hassan-Kamara a participant from DCI Moyamba office observed.
Defence for children Sierra Leone Ebola Response
Defence for Children International Sierra Leone Section has intensified its psychosocial support and public education on the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.
In an interview with the Advocacy and Communication officer, Henry O.J. Tucker, he said the Organization had undertaken robust campaign against Ebola in various forms.
“We aid community volunteers to support children affected by Ebola at local levels and we also provide reintegration packages for child survivors and orphaned by Ebola in our working communities in the country including Western Area, Kenema, Kono, Bombali, Bo and Moyamba”, Henry said.
He added that they had undertaken public outreach in different communities, placed jingles in radio stations and press releases on newspapers.
In DCISL’s recent Press Release, they recognized the efforts of all donors both local and international for their support towards eradicating the virus. They also appreciated the efforts of all, particularly health workers and other frontline workers, in the fight against the disease and further encouraged them to continue with their selfless service to the nation.
DCISL urged government and its development partners to deal with Ebola in a way that structures will be in place to handle post-Ebola discussions, because experience or history has taught us that Ebola – there’s always a possibility that it will come again. Adding that government should put in place structures in the communities, in the districts, in the villages, to ensure that once Ebola comes again, “we’ll have structures in place to deal with that immediately and it [won’t] get to where we are now.”
They called on government to ensure that residents within quarantined areas have easy access to essential commodities and necessary humanitarian assistance provided for the most vulnerable for their survival and wellbeing while public health actions must “protect and advance the health of the population as a whole and at the same time protecting basic human rights and social values.”
However, DCISL called on the public to cooperate with the authorities, and adhere to all measures that have been put in place to contain and prevent the spread of the virus.Go Top
DCI-Sierra Leone and partners Feed Street Children during the 3-day Lockdown
Defence for Children International Sierra Leone partnered with the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs and other partners to feed street children in Sierra Leone during the three day lockdown in Sierra Leone.
The feeding of the street children from Back Street, Wilberforce Street, Murry Town, Aberdeen Bridge, Funkia amongst other areas started on September 19th and ended on the 21st September 2014.
DCI-Sierra Leone’s Programme Manager Hawanatu Mansaray said “We are happy to be part of the three day exercise and it is just a continuation of our “Kick Ebola out of Sierra Leone Campaign,” adding that the children of Sierra Leone needed more help at this crucial time.
She said “We hope that the impact of the disease on the women and children of Sierra Leone will reduce after the three days lockdown.” Hawanatu Mansaray added that the children are vulnerable to the disease so they needed more support during this crucial time in the country.
A fifteen years old girl from the Murry Town community said “we are happy for DCI-Sierra Leone for taking up such a venture. They have really helped us during this three days because it has not been really easy for us here.” She however ended by praying that the Ebola disease will end soon in the country.
Human Rights Council (27th Session)
ID with SR on water and sanitation
Statement delivered by: Defence for Children International (DCI)
Thank you Mr/Madam Chairperson,
We would like to thank the Human Rights Council for the chance to make this statement.
Since the first registered case of the Ebola virus in March this year, West Africa has been confronted with the largest and most severe outbreak of the disease since the virus was first isolated in 1976. The most recent statistics compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) show 2,473 registered cases and 1,350 deaths including children, in the affected countries.
Through its national sections present on the ground, Defence for Children International (DCI) is undertaking measures to restrain the proliferation of victims, although efforts are often frustrated due to a systematic lack of coordination, also caused by a genuine fear of infection. The most recent report from DCI-Sierra Leone indicates that the number of confirmed cases exceeds 700, and more than 250 victims, including children and medical staff, have lost their lives.
The number of children orphaned by Ebola is growing. Children find themselves living in quarantined homes, without receiving any food or basic services. Private hospitals have been closed down and public health workers are often on strike or neglect their duties out of fear. Many people, particularly children, are dying due to lack of access to medical treatment. Furthermore school programmes, including public exams and summer schools, have all been suspended.
Though the epidemic represents a considerable challenge, human rights are to be protected and respected. It is in everyone’s long-term interest to understand the situation of the affected countries and to react intelligently.
Defence for Children International calls on the international community to:
The disease is said to have claimed the lives of several hundreds of Sierra Leoneans, including children and over 40 nurses and 2 (two) medical doctors who have been at the forefront of the fight against the disease. Many more children have been orphaned because of this appalling situation.
The speedy spread of the disease has been blamed on misconceptions and denial among the populace due to misinformation particularly at community levels and the absence of adequate protective measures for health workers.
The State of Emergency declared by the Government coupled with the restrictions on movement and social activities has had a devastating effect on the economy, while many workers in various sectors have been left redundant. The result has been the deepening of poverty, while hardship continue to increase among the population in a country where over half of its population live on daily wage. In addition, school programmes including pending public exams and summer schools have all been suspended until further notice.
Following training of trainers workshop organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) and Save the Children, which some DCI-SL staff benefited from, DCI has organized in house trainings for its staff to roll out the training conducted by MSWGCA and Save the Children. The training focused on facts about Ebola, messages to pass on to the public, how to register children orphaned by Ebola and how field staff can protect themselves at work.
DCI staff has also been provided with protective gears including gloves, chlorine, Dettol, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol to use in the field when doing sensitization and registering children orphaned by EVD alongside staff of MSWGCA.
In the districts that we operate, we have positioned the organization within the Government’s prevention and response plan and us contributing towards implementation of the plan. DCI has kept its focus on the plight of children owing to the outbreak of the EVD. We are represented at the regular weekly Ebola taskforce meetings set up by the Government in each of the districts. In Kenema where the crisis is more serious, DCI and the MSWGCA have registered over 150 children orphaned by Ebola. In Kono, in league with Action Aid, DCI has done awareness raising using ‘motorcade’ in three high-risk communities including where the only confirmed case in the district was discovered. This has contributed to preventing further spread of the disease since then.
In addition, DCI has out high risk communities in the seven administrative districts that we operate and we have decided to go on the ground and do more sensitization and registration of children affected by Ebola together with the Child Welfare Committees that we work with in these communities. These include: Western Area Rural and Urban-12 communities; Bo district- 4 communities; Kenema district-5 communities; Bombali district- 4 communities, Kono district 3 communities; Moyamba district-8 communities. In total we will be reaching out to 36 communities to do sensitization using megaphones and posters. We will also be holding meetings with community leaders and religious leaders in these communities in order to educate them and to empower them to add their voices to the campaign. We will be providing training for Child Welfare Committees and existing youth groups that we had set up in these communities including Defence for Girls groups and Children and Youth Advisory Boards to do awareness raising in their communities, taking cognizance of their protective measures. To this effect, we will be supply all those groups that will be involved in the awareness raising campaigns with megaphones, posters, chlorine, gloves, sanitizers, dettol, soap and fact sheets on prevention of Ebola. We are hoping to reach out to over 10,000 people with messages on Ebola prevention and response in the coming weeks.
DCI will also supply chlorine and posters to 15 institutions frequently visited by children, including police stations particularly the Family Support Units, courts and children’s detention centres to assist them prevent Ebola.
At the international level, the International Secretariat of DCI in Geneva is meeting with WHO and other relevant international organisations and missions to raise concern over the situation of the Ebola spread while urging them to increase their support towards eradication of the disease in Sierra Leone.
DCI therefore calls on the Government of Sierra Leone and our development partners to do more to end the Ebola scourge in the sub-region as soon as possible. DCI also urges the government to ensure that homes that have been quarantined are given adequate food supply and other humanitarian support, including psychosocial support. We will continue to support the Government and the people of Sierra Leone until Ebola is completely eradicated. DCI Sierra Leone would like to extend thanks and appreciations to DCI/ECPAT Netherlands for providing the much needed support to carry out this project. END
PRESS STATEMENT #08/2014
for immediate release
25 August 2014
Unprecedented Ebola Virus Outbreak
Since the first registered case of the Ebola virus in March this year, West Africa has been confronted with the largest and most severe outbreak of the disease since the virus was first isolated in 1976. The most recent statistics compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) show 2,473 registered cases and 1,350 deaths including children, reported from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria where 12 confirmed cases were recently detected. Severely affected cities by this outbreak include Kenema and Kailahun in Sierra Leone, Guékédou in Guinea, and Foya in Liberia. As the outbreak is moving more rapidly than efforts to control and prevent it, there is risk the infection may spread to other regions.
Through its national sections present in the affected countries, Defence for Children International (DCI) has shown active participation in undertaking standard measures of restraining the proliferation of victims. As the deadly virus is gradually spreading across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the most recent report from the Government of Sierra Leone indicates that 13 out of 14 administrative districts in the country have declared cases of infection. The number of confirmed cases exceeds 700, whereas more than 250 Sierra Leoneans, including children and medical staff, have lost their lives. The district of Koinadugu remains the only one in the country that has not registered any confirmed case of Ebola virus contamination.
Due to the appalling situation in Sierra Leone, the number of children orphaned by Ebola is growing, and school programmes including pending public exams and summer schools have all been suspended until further notice. In addition, the State of Emergency instituted by the government, and the ban on social activities have become redundant, while poverty and hardship continue to increase among the population.
In response to the magnitude of the outbreak, DCI-Sierra Leone (DCI-SL) has been undertaking numerous actions. Following a training of trainers workshop organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA), and Save the Children, which some DCI-SL staff benefited from, DCI-SL organized in-house training sessions for its staff to roll out the training conducted by MSWGCA and Save the Children. The training focused on facts about Ebola, messages to pass on to the public, ways to register children orphaned by Ebola, and on protection measures for field staff. In seven administrative districts where DCI-SL operates, our national representatives positioned the organization within the government’s prevention and response plan while focusing on the plight of children owing to the outbreak of the disease. DCI-SL has been represented at the regular weekly Ebola taskforce meetings set up by the government in each of the districts. In Kenema in particular, where the crisis is more serious, DCI-SL and the MSWGCA have registered over 150 children orphaned by Ebola. In Kono, in league with Action Aid, DCI-SL has carried out awareness raising actions using ‘motorcade’. This has contributed to preventing further spread of the disease. Furthermore, DCI-SL has been carrying out measures to suppress further transmission, and together with the Child Welfare Committees, it has been active in registering children orphaned by Ebola. By using different communication tools to carry out sensitization activities, DCI-SL will be reaching out to 36 communities, and to over 10,000 people with messages on tackling and preventing Ebola. DCI-SL will also supply chlorine and posters to 15 institutions frequently visited by children, as well as to police stations to aid prevention of the virus.
In Liberia, according to WHO reports as of 20 August, over 1,000 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, and 613 deaths have been recorded. The rapid spread of the disease in this country is due to its dysfunctional health care system weakened by years of civil war.
Alongside awareness-raising intervention in the counties of Bomi and Montserrado, DCI-Liberia took part in a vigorous Community awareness and sensitization campaign on Ebola control and prevention. The DCI national section also provided hand sanitizers, chlorine, powder detergents and other precaution material, and distributed 2,000 flyers to boost its awareness campaign throughout the country. In continuation of joint efforts aimed at working collectively on eradicating the Ebola virus disease in Liberia, the Civil Society Movement of the Bomi County convened a series of consultative meetings whereby the Bomi Civil Society Organizations Ebola Working Committee was established. The Committee includes the membership of Defence for Children International-Liberia, Liberia National Red Cross Bomi chapter, Liberia Children Foundation, Women and Children Advocacy, and the Bomi Rural Women.
At the international level, the International Secretariat of Defence for Children International (DCI-IS) is meeting in Geneva with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other relevant international organizations and diplomatic representatives to raise concern and verify potential coordination with the aim to prevent further spread of the virus. The magnitude of the Ebola outbreak, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia, has been underestimated and thus DCI urges the international community to increase its support towards prevention and eradication of the disease in the affected countries by providing efficient and effective medical teams, equipment, food, and financial resources.
Ebola is an serious issue of concern to the global community. The situation in West Africa must be prioritized on the international agenda, and effective monitoring, coordination, detection and rigorous disease control must be put into place.Go Top
June 16th every year has been set aside by the African Union as the Day of the African Child. It commemorates the day in June 1976, when the children of Soweto in South Africa, demonstrated against the Apartheid education system that forced Afrikaans on them as the language of their education as well as their operation. The violent reaction of the Apartheid regime cost the lives of dozens of children.
It has become a custom here in Sierra Leone to dress our children up in African cloths and other fancy attire on this day. We also assign children to play important positions of state, including that of President, Speaker of the House, Chief Justice, etc. All of this, presumably in the hopes that our children will grow up and occupy such important positions of state, in furtherance of our statehood. Often, at the organised programs in commemoration of the day, speeches are made referencing progress made on behalf of children while highlighting the challenges and promising things.
We here at Defence for Children International (DCI) have been also overwhelmed by the bug of celebratory commemoration that we have not tarried a bit to fully reflect on the particulars of the challenges we continue to face in our work in defence of children. That is even why the theme of the 2014 commemoration of this day: A Child Friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa, becomes so instructive.
A Child Friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa is an aspiration for education for our children in Africa, which recognises inter alia, the significance of the environment in which learning takes place, and the cost and quality of education on the continent. In our work advocating for children in communalities across the country, we at DCI have focused on the school environment as the pivot for promoting education and learning.
We believe that “violence” should be taken out of the education system. That is why we have staked a position that corporal punishment encourages truancy and demotivates attendance. We are particularly against sexual violence and harassment either by peers or especially by school authorities. The enactment of the National Code of conduct for teachers and other education personnel is very encouraging; and the support that UNICEF and other partners have accorded this process thus far is also very laudable. I should however emphasise here that the ongoing trainings in the pilot schools must be strengthened and further trainings instituted in the remaining schools. Also, individual schools should be encouraged to put systems in place to monitor, prevent, and respond to sexual and other forms of violence within the school system. The watch word for the National Code should now become “implementation”.
Our experiences implementing the Girl Power Project with our partners have taught me that organising forums to discuss the issue of violence within the school goes a long way to demystify the problem and find solutions to the issues. I am of an opinion that setting days aside to discuss the issues go a long way to address them. In the same vein, it will be important to consider reinstituting the role of guidance counsellors. These played a pivotal role interfacing with young girls to know their problems and advised them on how to take care of their bodies and to relate to the opposite sex. They were also crucial identifying troubled teenagers within the school system. Reinstating their role will go a long way to improve the school environment, while making it child friendly.
Finally, I want to encourage school authorities to establish and/or strengthen their relationships with NGOs to deal with the issues. We here at DCI are open to training teachers and other school personnel on the issues with a view to forming stronger alliances in Defence of Children.
My wish for children on the occasion of the commemoration of the 2014 Day of the African Child is that VIOLENCE BE REMOVED FROM THE EDUCATION SYSTEM, especially for girls.
Happy day of the African Child...Go Top
PRESS STATEMENT #01/2014
For immediate release
Freetown, Sierra Leone
21 February 2014
Prolonged pre-trial detention of children in Sierra Leone
The national 2007 Child Rights Act of Sierra Leone provides that any person of 14 years of age is within the age of criminal responsibility. This means that even children between the ages of 14 and 18 years can face judicial proceedings when they are suspected of having committed an offence either alone or in a group. However, there are standards and procedures that guide and regulate the process of investigations and trials of children below 18 years of age: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its General Comments No. 10; the UN Guidelines for the Administration of Juvenile Justice; and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child all put emphasis not only on adherence to the due process of the law, but that trial and detention of children be a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time possible.
Defence for Children International - Sierra Leone (DCI - SL) notes that the juvenile justice system in Sierra Leone is not adhering to basic standards and respecting fundamental human rights. Many children are spending far longer time in pre-trial detention than necessary. One of the worse cases DCI-SL is currently working on involves a boy who since August 2010 remains in pre-trial detention at the Freetown Remand Home. Several other children have spent over a year in pre-trial detention and their cases are not making much progress. The most serious issue with these cases is that, following preliminary investigations, they have been handed over to the High Court by the various Magistrate Courts and their indictments have not yet been issued. As a result, their cases are not progressing and these children remain in detention. Sometimes their frustrations push them to misbehave at the Remand Home and when this happens, those involved are usually transferred to the Pademba Road Prison (where children are not separated from adult detainees) so that they will not ‘contaminate’ or ‘instigate’ other young inmates. In 2013, four Remand Home inmates were transferred to Pademba Road Prison by the Court for misbehavior; these children are still at Pademba Road Prison.
This situation has both social and economic implications on the children involved and even the State. The children end up missing out on education and any future career development and their lengthy stay in detention also affects them psychologically. Furthermore, DCI-SL has observed in one of our cases, that the boy being detained has developed abnormal behavioral traits and if he continues to stay in this abysmal situation, he may end up developing a serious mental health problems (DCI has published a brief report on children Mental and Physical Health in Juvenile Detention: A Preventative and Human Rights Based Approach, which is available online: https://www.defenceforchildren.org/images/stories/Brief_Report_SideEvent_mental_health_juvenile_justice_07March2013.pdf ).
In this regard, DCI-SL is calling on the Government of Sierra Leone and all actors involved with children deprived of liberty to ensure the following:
Date: 06th February, 2014
A call for Zero Tolerance to Child Bondo in Sierra Leone
Defence for Children Sierra Leone (DCI-SL) is calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to remain committed in meeting its international obligation by ratifying the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa which they signed on the 9th December, 2003 and Resolution 67/146 signed by state parties during the Sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted on 20th December, 2012 which is intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations. We are calling for a Zero Tolerance especially for children below 18 years on this day 06th February, 2014 as the world marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. DCI – SL recognizes Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as an institutionalized practice done exclusively by a traditional secret society referred to as ‘Bondo’ in Sierra Leone. This is the biggest cultural institution of women recognized in every parts of the country including the Western Area.
Sierra Leone as a country has signed several international treaties that are but not limited to: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which they signed on the 13th February, 1990 and ratified on the 18th June, 1990; the African Charter on the Rights & Welfare of the Child signed 27th August, 1981 and ratified on the 21st September, 1983; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women signed on the 21 September, 1988 and ratified on the 11th November, 1988 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa signed on the 9th December, 2003 but yet to be ratified. All of the above place emphasis on the protection of women and children from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.
The Child Rights Act, 2007 in section 33 (1) states that: “No person shall subject a child to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment including any cultural practices which dehumanizes or injurious to the physical and mental welfare of a child”.
Efforts by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in advocating for government to put an end to Child Bondo has still not yield the desired result. Advocacy Movement Network (AMNet) a Civil Society Organization has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Paramount Chiefs as traditional leaders and custodians of the cultures people for a complete ban on Child Bondo. Despite all efforts by the civil society to work with Soweis to put an end to Child Bondo yet girls whose ages range from 6 years to 17 years are still been initiated forcefully or with parental consent across the country.
Defence for Children International Sierra Leone is calling the Governmental of Sierra Leone to ratify Resolution 67/146 signed during the Sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted on 20th December, 2012 which intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations especially for children below 18 years.
Defence for Children - Sierra Leone (DCI-SL) is a chapter of Defence for Children International global movement. DCI-SL’s mission is to seek the advance the protection of the rights and welfare of children in Sierra Leone by disseminating information on child rights, strengthening child protection systems at national and community levels, providing legal counsel and social support to children in conflict with the law and child victims of abuse and neglect in order to facilitate their access to justice, rehabilitation services and family reintegration.
THE END Go Top