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FundaWazi discusses sexual abuse with school children

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Founder, Fundawazi Foundation, Pastor Nomthi; the Speaker, Anthonia Ojenagbon and Uchay Joel Chima at the event

Rape and other forms of sexual abuse have become widespread. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 35 per cent of women globally have experienced physical or sexually intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. And according to UNICEF, around 120million girls universally have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.

Over the past years, there has been mass mobilisation against these forms of abuse. From #MeToo and #TimesUp in Hollywood, to #IBelieveHer in Northern Ireland and #Cuéntalo in Spain, women around the world are sharing their stories on social media, organising protests and expressing their frustration with the criminal justice systems of their respective jurisdictions.

In pushing the campaign against rape and sexual abuse in Nigeria, Founder and Chairman, FundaWazi Foundation Mrs. Nomthi Odukoya, recently held the Fundawazi Art and Poem Event (FAPE), a yearly art and poem writing competition involving children in primary schools in Lagos. This is to enable children have the right to express their views, feelings in all matters affecting them as well as have their views considered and taken seriously.

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Odukoya averred that the best way to end sexual abuse is to educate both sexes on prevention and safety method at early age.

She said: “Fundawazi is a Zulu word which means learn and know, and the aim is to sensitise children, create awareness so they will know how to protect themselves against dangers such as sexual abuse, bullying, and other social ills trying to destroy our children’s future.

“Most times, predators are people known to a child, not always a stranger, it is a person who is nice and kind to a child, the person who have access to the children, sometimes it could be the parents themselves. This is not written on anybody’s face. So, that’s why we are teaching children, not that they should live in fear or they should be paranoid, but they should recognise that when a person is touching them inappropriately, it doesn’t matter who they are, they should be able to say No.

On stiffer punishment for child predators, she said, “It’s part of the advocacy, but I am basically creating an awareness because prevention is better than cure. There should be something done to deter molestation. We must teach the children on how to protect themselves from predators, that’s the main aim of my foundation.

“What you need to give to a child is an opportunity to tell you what they understand about safety and that’s what we are doing today. We are focusing on safety in this year’s FAPE on how the children will express themselves on what safety means to them. What you need to give to a child is the opportunity to tell you what they understand about safety. What safety means is for a child not to keep secret from her parents, understand what it means to be touched in an inappropriate manner, and to know what is uncomfortable for them.

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“Children are very trusting, curious and open during their early formative years. It is also during those years that many children suffer abuse and molestation. Most children are unsure of what to do when something uncomfortable happens. They blame themselves and store these bad memories. However, our children are very intelligent and are quick to use the tools we provide, so we need to equip them.”

On how to recognise an abused child, the speaker at the programme, Anthonia Ojenagbon, noted that when a child becomes withdrawn suddenly, that child may be going through an abuse. “This is because by the time the abuser is threatening the child with death in case she says anything, the child becomes withdrawn, the child becomes quiet and begins to dissociate herself from her peers.

“When a child excessively displays sexual tendencies towards adults, you can also know that the child is being introduced to what is older than the child. Parents should make their children their friends, they must talk to them no matter how little or seemingly unimportant the matter may be.”

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On how to save a child from predators, Ojenagbon who is also a sexual abuse survivor said, “the Lagos State government has been gracious, they have zero tolerance for sexual offences so, once the case is reported to the Domestic Sexual and Violence Response Team (DSVRT), if the child is below 18, she will be taken away and put under shelter while justice is being meted out to the abuser.

“Many abused people don’t come out because of the shame, stigma and the fear of being judged. The society will judge you as a girl and ask why you didn’t dress well, but what is a four-year-old child wearing to seduce a man? People keep quiet to save their family’s name from shame and disgrace. A lot of families will not allow their children to marry a lady who has been raped; nobody wants to be judged, so the best thing is to keep quiet.

On how to discourage a predator, the Coordinator, Abisola Soneye, said: “Once a child is able to equip herself with information, understands how private her virginal and breasts are, knows about her body parts, understands that when a predator uses several techniques like, ‘I’m your uncle or I have to help you do your homework, sit on my lap and all that’.

“If you tell the child all about these things, the child is well equipped with this information and will know that “no predator can trick out.”

Soneye wants the government to put policies in place to ensure that abusers and predators are punished, because “we have several instances of predators and abusers that are off the hook.”

Children from over 40 public and private schools attended the event.


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