By Amar Diaw; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
A forum was held by World Vision for all ages on the rights and responsibilities of the child. Among them stood Farmata, a 12-year-old girl with a strong message to deliver on child protection.
Her body shook as she held the microphone, “I’m grateful to everyone…” she begins. In traditional Senegalese society, allowing children to speak up is not very common, and Kandia is no exception. “But what I would like to say to the teachers is that they should stop giving us bonus points if all they want to do is seduce us.”
Farmata’s words hung in the air for a moment. In her culture, there are taboos about sexual exploitation. The norm is to conceal abuse, especially when the victims are children, and they often suffer in silence for fear of causing a stir. More often than not, predators are close relatives, neighbours or family friends.
Now, in a room full of adults in a public space, what could have triggered this young girl to take a stand with such high stakes? A few months ago, a teacher had gotten a student pregnant. It was time to speak up.
When tolerance is confused with permissiveness, women, girls and children fall prey to sexual abuse, early pregnancy and female genital mutilation. To promote child protection in a culture that silences children in the face of injustice, World Vision brought in various art forms for the forum, such as painting, dance and theatre. Rap singer, Sister Fa, was invited to perform and speak, starting the conversation to promote child protection in the region.
Farmata was brave to expose child exploitation issues in this way. Her public statement opened a wide-range debate on the sexual abuse of her generation of girls.
Those in attendance took her address to heart, and after a lengthy exchange of views on the subject, the community resolved to do more to value children and improve their protection. It was agreed that child protection procedures in the community need to be more proactive and responsive to deal with cases of abuse. One example is to develop sustainable programs where art is used as a medium for children to express themselves.
Communities like Kandia need children like Farmata who have the courage to ignite conversation about the injustices of the past and act on the solutions for the future.
Bring harmony to Kandia with the gift of music.