Aged 13, Samuel Daniel is aiming to become an advocate against child and sexual abuse, a menace that seems to have a foothold in Nigeria.
He is among scores of young boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 17 being trained through a community-based initiative on the knowledge of child and sexual abuse-related offenses.
The programme was launched by the Sexual Offences Awareness and Response (SOAR) initiative at Kayarda village, a rural settlement in Kuje Area Council of Nigeria’s capital territory, FCT, where Mr Daniel resides.
“I now know the different forms of sexual and child abuses and the different techniques used by the perpetrators,” Daniel, who wants to become a doctor, told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday shortly after a drama event held at the village square to further strengthen the level of awareness on sexual crimes and offences.
Daniel, a Junior Secondary School 3 student, said through the training he can now identify a case of child and sexual abuse, as well as know the necessary steps to take in reporting such incidents.
He said he learned that when someone is abused, “we should encourage the person to report the case to our mentors or the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC).”
Blessing Azaki, one of the mentors, said the programme has helped children break the culture of silence.
“Some of them that have been dying in silence have opened up during the classes. There’s this child was being abused by her uncle. She told us how the uncle lures her to his house only to abuse her. We are currently following up with the case.”
Recent reports of rape incidents have left many Nigerians enraged over these sexual assaults, especially on children and young women.
These acts of violence were shown to have long-term repercussions such as increased HIV prevalence and mental health issues.
Nigeria has an extremely low conviction rate for rape and sexual abuse, despite an increase in violence against women. But the shortcomings in Nigeria’s legal system – where the burden to prove rape or abuse often lies in the evidence of it also being a violent attack – is just a tip of the challenges facing survivors.
Many more cases of rape and sexual crimes are undocumented, unheard, and unreported in rural communities such as Kayarda, where lifesaving service providers, such as hospitals, support centres, and the police are largely out of reach.
This persuaded SOAR and their partners to establish a community-based approach to tackle this menace starting with some rural communities in Abuja with a high prevalence of sexual offences such as Kayarda.
Two initiatives that work in sync were established in Kayarda: one is the mentorship programme that grooms children like Daniel on the knowledge of sexual crimes; the other is the CCPC – a team of young men and women vested with the responsibility to monitor, investigate and report incidents of rape and sexual crimes within the area.
Daniel Jonah, one of the mentors training the children, explained how the initiatives work.
“We volunteered as mentors for this programme after which we were trained on how to make these children have the knowledge and in turn become advocates against sexual offences.
“We hold classes every Friday for two hours from 3 p.m to 5 p.m. The idea is to groom a network of teen advocates against sexual abuse. We taught them the different steps to take when they sense a case of abuse. They should either report to us or the CCPC.
“We the mentors work hand in hand with the CCPC who are like the local vigilantes that take up the matter up to the relevant government agencies depending on the peculiarity of the case.”
Musa Abdullahi, the vice-chairman of CCPC Kayada area division, said he is representing the Igala tribe in the committee.
“We the CCPC members have already been introduced to the police and other relevant agencies so whenever we identify a case, we report to the police immediately for follow up.”
Johnson Ameh, the community engagement officer, SOAR, explained how the programme was set up in not just Kayarda but some other communities in the FCT with a high prevalence of sexual offences.
“We set up these programmes in four communities in three area councils of the FCT. Kayarda in Kuje, Muna in Gwagwalada and Wukara and Tacha1 in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).
“We went to the area councils of these villages for them to help us map out communities where there are a high prevalence of child sexual abuse and they identified these four communities.
“It is because of the high prevalence of child sexual abuse in these communities that they were chosen.”