THE Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) recently held a psycho-social support gathering for victims of child abuse victims in Qacha’s Nek.
The initiative was held with the support of UNICEF funding of M800 000. The LRCS’ disaster management division started the psycho-social support initiative in February this year to address the challenges faced by children some of whom have been abused due to their circumstances.
The programme is also aimed to support the children, particularly abuse victims, who are left with no support despite the incarceration of the perpetrators of the abuse.
The Qacha’s Nek head of the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU), Sub-Inspector ‘Maphutheho Mongali, told the Lesotho Times that while they received reports for 34 cases of child abuse, they have so far registered nine this year.
At the gathering, the LRCS also taught 30 children how to detect signs of abuse and how to report in an effort to promote a child abuse free generation.
LRCS Disaster Management Coordinator Maine Makula said his organisation provides psycho-social support and protection mainstreaming for children who are victims of all forms of abuse.
“Child abuse victims need all the support they can get to regain confidence,” Mr Makula said.
He said through the psycho-social support mainstreaming public gatherings, they aim to empower children in schools and in communities to become ambassadors of child protection in their societies and at schools.
“Issues of child protection used to be discussed by adults without the involvement of the victims which meant they could not express their views on issues that affect them.
“So, they will use the information they are getting today to protect themselves as well as their peers as we have advised them to form youth clubs that will allow them to interact with other children about issues that affect them.
“We are working towards providing a comfortable environment for children especially victims of abuse because we have realised how much it affects them,” he said.
The founder of Seotloaneng Children’s Club, Advocate Nthabiseng Nkoe, who is a prosecutor at Qacha’s Nek Magistrate’s said she was moved by a 2016 case of 10 Patlong High School girls who were raped by thieves who broke into their dormitory.
Adv Nkoe said some of the girls, who were between 13 and 17 years old, were still virgins.
“It was so heart breaking for such girls who had kept themselves lose their virginity at gunpoint,” Adv Nkoe said.
“It was sad to see their futures shuttered because just after the case was completed and the perpetrators were sentenced, some of those children dropped out of school while some left to find jobs. I was deeply touched to see children abandoning their future just like that,” Adv Nkoe said.
“It was even more nerve wrecking to see one of the girls who had fallen pregnant miscarry after testifying in court.
“The self-esteem was negatively affected and we formed this club to allow them to speak out and fight for their rights and pass their lessons to their peers. So we empower them to know their rights,” Adv Nkoe said.
She said since the establishment of the club in 2017, they have seen positive progress in the children.
“I say positive progress because when we started they were so reversed, they were always quiet and never wanted to participate in activities while some would just cry ceaselessly,” she said.
“Most of the children are back in school because we are able to get support from stakeholders like the LRCS, the CGPU and the business community. We also get feedback from parents that their confidence has been boosted. So, to us, this is progress because we want them to get their lives back on track so that they can chase their dreams,” Adv Nkoe said.
Some of the girls from the club said abusive men must repent from their evil ways of looking at young girls as sexual objects.
“We are children we and we need to be allowed to be children and be free, without fear of being abused.
“Our mothers also need to listen to us every time we need communicate about issues that affect us,” she said.
She said it is every parent’s duty to know their children and always be vigilant so that they can notice whenever something is wrong.
She also said being in the club has helped them to fully know their rights and also boost their confidence to express their views without fear.