Plan International Sierra Leone is leading the way in increasing child protection in the country, and our child protection programme continues to strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms and national child protection systems. We are promoting child and youth participation in child protection to protect children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence, including during emergencies. We have worked with communities to carry out extensive awareness-raising, resulting in increased reporting of teenage pregnancy, sexual harassment, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, gender-based violence, child labour, corporal punishment, child trafficking, maltreatment, child molestation, drug use, and child-to-child violence.
Fifteen-year old Betty lives in Moyamba District with her parents and younger sister. Her father is a farmer, and her mother is a small trader, and Betty is the youngest in her family.
In Moyamba, child abuse cases are common in homes, schools or even in the bush. Extreme poverty, lack of access to justice, poor conviction and social pressures often force victims to suffer in silence.
“My elder sister was sexually abused by her teacher, she became pregnant and dropped out of school. The matter was not treated seriously,” says Betty.
“I shouted for help but no one showed up,” Betty’s younger sister says.
Two months later, Betty’s sister started showing the signs and symptoms of pregnancy.
“She was taken to the community elders to enquire about who was responsible for her pregnancy,” explains Betty. “After a series of interrogations to tell who was responsible for her pregnancy, she told them it was her teacher. The matter was taken to court but was not treated seriously. The matter was dragged out of court and settled among community elders.
“Teachers sexually abuse girls in school for grades. They don’t conduct or draw questions for exams and we are asked to pay LE5, 000 ($1) in exchange for the exam and if we can’t afford to pay the money, they failed us in that particular subject.”
Betty added: “Most teachers in Moyamba district smoke marijuana and drink alcohol excessively before coming to class, and due to this they use abusive languages on pupils.
“School boys also use abusive languages on girls.”
Moyamba is one of the districts that has reported high child abuse cases,” says Komah, Project Officer at Defense for Children International, one of Plan International Cameroon’s partners.
“The abuse cases have now been reduced due to the intervention of Plan International and its implementing partners. We have put structures in place in the 14 chiefdoms to help minimise these abuses.
“In 2012, over 900 cases of child abuse were recorded. In 2013 the cases reduced to 43,” says Paul Ngegba, Social Development Officer, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.
Plan International Sierra Leone has supported the government to establish a child welfare committee (CWC) in each of the 2 chiefdoms in Moyamba to help reduce the crime rate.
Children’s groups comprising of children in schools and local communities have been formed in all three 3. Each group has 30 children – 15 girls and 15 boys. The members of these groups are trained to conduct peer to peer education in schools and communities and on child protection and child rights issues and regularly sensitize the communities and make them aware about their rights, roles and responsibilities.