By Alhaji Haruna Sani
In order to address challenges faced by adolescents across the country, Save the Children Sierra Leone has organised children’s summit on Reducing Early Forced Marriage (project implemented by Save the Children). The event was held on Tuesday 19 September at The Family Kingdom Resort, Aberdeen in Freetown.
The objectives of the summit centred around the increase awareness of adolescent well-being in Sierra Leone, stimulate action through engagements national, and local levels to shape the Agenda for Action for Adolescent and the Building of a strong audience for long-term demand and action on accountability, contributing to Progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)2030.
Explaining the rationale behind the summit, Madam Modupe Taiwo, Project Director pointed out that Save the Children is joining the rest of the world to support the global campaign for adolescent well-being, adding that they are also bringing to memory that there has been some commitment that the government and the United Nations have made to improve the lives of Adolescent.
“This day we are bringing back to memory to ensure that everyone, every stakeholders , every adults whose supposed to do one thing or the other to make lives comfortable for children are reminded and these are issues that have been put together in what we called sustainable development goal ,” She said.
Director Modupe described the sustainable development goals as an agenda that has been written which all nations of the world agreed to making sure that the lives of adolescent and young people are made better by to going to school, having access to good quality education, ideal environment and medical care.
She said Save the Children is working with other organisations to mobilise about 1.8 billion adolescents and youth across the globe so that they will speak on their wellbeing.
She expressed that adolescent must go to school where teachers are well trained; schools are with proper toilet facility so that when girls are menstruating for three or five days they can still be in school without missing out.
Representing the International Pediatric Association, Dr. Nellie V. T. Bell who serves as the Head of Department at the Ola During Children’s Hospital revealed that many may think that they only deal with Children that are Under 5, but affirmed that they have been managing children from 19 to 0 years .
She further revealed that for long time Pediatricians have been concentrating on under 5 Children, but that they have also realized that the focus on adolescents is also important. She confirmed that the mortality and Morbidity in their age group is mostly preventable and treatable.
Victor G. Karimu, Communications and Administrative Officer at the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy and Child Marriage (NSRTPCM), thanked Save the Children for Organizing the Summit.
He said sexual reproductive health services are essential for adolescent to remain and complete secondary education, emphasizing that the government of Sierra and many of its International Partners recognizes teenage pregnancy , child marriage , gender based violence affects adolescents are significant issues that have enormous consequences for Girls as well as Boys
Giving testimonies by adolescent beneficiary, Alpha Samuel from Kailahun District, thanked Save the Children and the Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) Project for what they have done for him and his family.
“Save the Children facilitated my presence at the Coal research group. The Provision of biscuit and drinks also help to motivate us to be part of the Safe Space Class, in my family, it was a norm that my father and mother don’t consult each other and us the children in terms of decision making,” he said.
Since the start of this Project and intervention of the Gender Equality Champions in the Kailahun villages , they taught my Parents about the Importance of consultations in terms of decision making,”
Hawa Musa, a female Adolescent from Kailahun District confirmed that their community was notorious for early child marriage and Teenage Pregnancy but the implementing of Project helped to change the narrative through education about the risks and dangers especially when their body is not fully matured.
She added that the Safe Space created by the Project has helped to build her confidence in terms of Public Speaking adding that Save the Children facilitates the boarding of flight to Burkina Faso to discuss about Girls issue.
Patrick Sesay, an adolescent from N0.2 River thanked Save the Children for their Presence at the No 2 Community through the CEFM Project.
He revealed that he was in the habit of leaving all the domestic chores with his sister as he focuses on playing football. Through Save the Children Safe Space program, he revealed that he learnt about gender equality and also the importance of sharing domestic chores together with his female counterparts at home.
The summit was climaxed by breakout sessions on various themes leading to the drafting of a communique which will be made known to the general public through the press.