World Vision Senegal and musician Sister Fa have been spearheading a campaign since 2013 to promote rights and inclusivity for children as part of the project 'art sticks up for kids'.
On the case every day
World Vision and Sister Fa are working daily to meet ambitious objectives and to collaborate with communities in order to reinforce these essential points:
- No child should be subjected to any further abuse and mistreatment
- No child should be forced into early marriage
- No child of school age should fall pregnant
- All children should be registered at birth.
Lobbying for the Rights of the Child
A significant number of children in the regions where World Vision is active are still vulnerable to the persistence of certain practices. For example, in the region of Kolda children fall victim to several forms of abuse such as begging, early marriage, child-labour or trafficking, or lack of civil registration.
In launching this project World Vision has cooperated with various partners such as the Departmental Committee of Child Protection (CDPE), an umbrella body which is presided over by the Prefect for all agencies involved in child protection in the region, including mayors and community-based organisations.
Community involvement - the key to a successful project
Sister Fa hosted a discussion forum on behalf of World Vision on the theme 'child protection - roles and responsibilities of activists' on Saturday 16 July at Coumbacara.
The forum was the opportunity for activists to strengthen their mutual commitment to the protection of children through discouraging negative cultural practices and working to raise awareness of their atrocious impact, particularly in relation to early or forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse and mistreatment.
Turning dreams into reality
After being introduced to the theme 'Child Protection - the roles and responsibilities of activists' by World Vision Child Protection expert Boubacar Fofana, the children responded to his question 'what are your dreams?' Many had something to share, for example Maria who said: "In the near future I want to become a teacher". The children proceeded to spell out the issues which hinder them from bringing these dreams to fruition. High on the list was the question of birth certificates. In fact, according to World Vision facilitator Mr. Moussa Mballo, "One survey revealed that among 70 children aged 7-17, 58 were not in possession of a birth certificate and 37 of them were school pupils."
The children also pointed to other issues such as early marriage, teenage pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual abuse as factors restraining them from making their dreams come true.
Don't be afraid to report offenders
Mr. Fofana went on to say that "Parents need to do away with the attitude of thiokoré endam [let her do] and report the perpetrators of abuse or violence so that they may be brought to justice."
He continued by expressing the pivotal role that the family plays in the education of children in these terms: "Education is the product of two things: academic instruction and parenting".
The Deputy Prefect of Mampatim, Mr. Alé Diouf, took up this theme, firstly reminding local collectives of their duty to answer to the mayor's Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC) on matters of child protection. He requested members of the Coumbacara collective to hold meetings periodically in order to monitor and take charge of issues concerning protection.
He also reminded parents of their responsibility to report perpetrators of abuse or violence towards children. He remarked, "the National Child Protection Strategy implemented by the State of Senegal shows in many respects how to afford our children more protection."
An integrated approach and a shared responsibility
Addressing the question of the role of activists in protection, one Coumbacara woman called Fatoumata commented that "children need good supervision and advice from their parents but also the State and local collectives need to be raising awareness and provided support and guidance to community activists." She went on, "the State must further strengthen child protection systems."
Coumbacara's imam Mr. Ousmane Diamanka encouraged parents to show more love and to talk more openly with their wives and children. As he put it: "A child that grows up in an atmosphere of parental love will prosper better and trust his or her parents more in the future."
Musician Sister Fa added, "there's a lot more to protecting children than refraining from corporal punishment", naming additional factors such as schooling and making sure girls stay at school.
When asked to sum up the outcomes of the forum, she added "we got the Coumbacara community involved and on-side, and after the contributions of various people it's safe to say that parents and children alike have got a better handle on the idea of child protection." She continued, "the people of Senegal have a stake in the development of their communities, and through my partnership with World Vision I wanted to join the quest for lasting solutions for child well-being. I use the medium of art in all its splendour in order to connect with the vital tier of society that is our children, in order to eradicate certain issues which they are subjected to."
Since Sister Fa began working with World Vision to promote children's rights, she has put her message across through music, encouraging communities to guarantee their children an environment where they may grow up and prosper free from fear.
All in all, the forum was a success because it left parents and children alike with a deeper awareness of the importance of protecting the holistic development of the child.