Sexual abuse is traumatic – and more particularly for unassuming children who believe the best of abusive uncles, aunties, cousins and other adolescents or adults who easily take advantage of them.
According to UNICEF, 6 out of every 10 children in Nigeria experience some form of violence. Expectedly, each child has a unique response to abuse, with some being able to recover more quickly than others. Usually, the aftermath of the experience is the most difficult phase – especially dealing with fear, guilt, shame and a myriad of other emotions that overtake their minds.
While parents and well-wishers may not be able to control the sexual appetite of predators, much more can be done to protect children in our community from sexual abuse, and though we may sometimes be tempted to “reject it” for our loved ones, we must bear in mind that the protection of children is primarily our responsibility, and we must do so in whatever ways we can.
Cece Yara Foundation, a child-centred non-profit organisation is working tirelessly to provide psycho-social, legal and medical support for children through a 24-hour free child telephone helpline, which receives 20-30 phone calls daily, and a child-friendly Child Advocacy Centre based in Lagos, Nigeria.
With a multi-disciplinary team of counsellors, social workers, child advocates, lawyers and forensic interviewers, who communicate in English, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, the foundation collaborates with government agencies and partners involved in the investigation, intervention and prosecution in child sexual abuse cases, in order to provide a coordinated response to children, in line with best practice.
Cece Yara which handles three aspects of abuse – physical, sexual and neglect – has spaces for children and teenagers as well as a counselling room to attend to its clients (abused children). At its forensic room, children are allowed to recount the details of any incidence of sexual assault in a comfortable space, and those who are two young to explain the experience, are provided with dolls to illustrate their victimization.
Cece Yera usually gains the trust and consent of the child before the forensic interview and the interviewer is not permitted to ask leading questions. At the observation room – located beside the forensic room – the policeman in charge of the case, counselor, child advocate and social workers sit to listen to the interview in real time. They are also allowed to call the interviewer to ask questions through an intercom.
The foundation also has a therapy room used for delivering psychological services to help the client recover from trauma. In addition to this, the organization pays attention to clients who may not be traumatized but are likely to get addicted to sex, pornography or masturbation as a result of the abuse. Likewise, the organization works in the capacity of a transit shelter, accommodating people for three months before relocating them to their family.
Over the years, the Cece Yara Foundation has achieved phenomenal results with creating awareness and helping abused children in Nigeria. Most importantly, Cece Yera has been able to create a friendly and safe space which makes it appealing to the child.
The process of rehabilitation is straightforward. Upon the arrival of a child (also known as a client), a child advocate administers the child to make a connection with the child. Once the child advocate has gathered the required information, the child undergoes a medical examination. There is a full-time nurse at the foundation, however, it is also in partnership with a private hospital to administer medical services, where needed.
At the moment, Cece Yara has over 50 cases awaiting judgement in court, with two of the perpetrators currently serving jail term. The organization has also created a safe space for adults, and successfully trained over 1000 adults and 14,444 children over the years, hosting programs in Ajegunle, Epe and other parts of Lagos.
The Centre has created a child protection directory in Lagos state, and also established outreach educational programs across Lagos state, including the “Save Kids awareness” and other specialized programs to educate adults on how to protect children from sexual abuse.
Translated “Save the Child” in Hausa language, Cece Yara is committed to the fight against all forms of child abuse in Nigeria, one community at a time.