October 28, 2015 By Victoria Saffa
Madam Rita Chiedu Ogbusu is a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary and also Coordinator and Founder of a project called ‘Fullness of Life for Children’ that is supported by MISEAN CARA in Ireland and engaging in advocacy programs around teenage pregnancy and early child marriage. She had previously worked on Trauma Release and Healing Management and did a lot of awareness and sensitisation campaigns on child abuse and domestic violence. She is currently engaged in a new project which is raising awareness around issues having to do with teenage pregnancy and early child marriage in the Moyamba District, southern Serra Leone.
Her organisation recently engaged pupils from five secondary schools in Moyamba District to see how the teenage pregnancy and early child marriage menace could be curbed in the district.
Concord Times’ ace reporter, Victoria Saffa, caught up with her in Moyamba to find out all about her new project.
Concord Times (CT): Sister Rita, you’ve had a one week radio discussion with secondary school pupils in Moyamba, what was it all about?
Sister Rita: Yes, I had an engagement with the pupils and it was an advocacy program for children who cannot advocate for their rights, especially those facing abuses of different forms. The focus of our discussion this time round was on ‘Girl-Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy’, which is prevalent in the area. It was a week-long radio campaign against this menace in the Moyamba District.
CT: Why are you focusing on these issues this time around?
Sister Rita: I’m focusing on girl-child marriage and teenage pregnancy because, during a meeting I had with some stakeholders in the district on 28th May this year to look at the areas of needs that should warrant our urgent attention, it came out clearly that the rate of teenage pregnancy and girl-child marriage is alarming in the district. That meeting revealed that there were over 2,500 cases of teenage pregnancy just within six months into the Ebola outbreak. When I proposed to the stakeholders that I would like to collaborate with them in combating these issues, they were happy and gave me their blessing. They were as concerned as I was about this ugly trend. During that one-week radio campaign, some of the stakeholders even called in to show appreciation and congratulating me and the children for the bold step we had taken.
CT: Were all the schools in Moyamba District involved in that radio discussion?
Sister Rita: No. After my meeting with the stakeholders, I decided to choose five schools namely: St. Joseph’s Catholic Girls Vocational Secondary School, St. Michael’s Catholic Boys Secondary School, Khulafai Rashideen Islamic Secondary School, Ferguson Memorial Boys Secondary School, and Harford Girls Secondary School. They were used as pilot schools to initiate this pilot project.
Also, I decided to limit my work to these five secondary schools because of the finances involved in taking on board all the schools in the district. I hope to extend this advocacy program to other schools if only I could attract the required funding that would enable me embark on such a big project. I started with workshops/capacity building training in these five schools. It was during these workshops and training exercises that the pupils suggested the radio discussion program and the formation of ‘Child Rights Watch Clubs’ as parts of their follow up and activity plan after the workshops.
CT: Your story is captivating. So when and how did the radio discussion program go?
Sister Rita: We started the radio discussion, including the time of planning for the program, from 28th September to 2nd October. But the actual broadcast began with the pupils of St. Joseph’s Girls Vocational Secondary School on 29 September. The pupils were so fired up by the radio program that they decided to kick-off with the Child Rights Watch Advocacy Clubs immediately after the broadcasts.
CT: Wow! That’s wonderful! You mentioned Ferguson Memorial Secondary School as one of the schools chosen for this pilot project, but I learnt that they did not participate in the radio discussions. Is that true? If yes, then why?
Sister Rita: Yes you are right; Ferguson Memorial did not take part in the radio programs. The reason for this was that, after doing our plan we realised that our budget could not cater for all the schools. As a result, we had to scale down again to four schools instead of five as originally planned. But that did not in any way affect the program.
The whole program went excellently well. The pupils were enthusiastic about the entire program and the experience was just wonderful. The pupils invited us to the inauguration ceremonies of the ‘Child Rights Watch Advocacy Clubs’ in their various schools. We were able to attend the inaugural meetings of three schools but could not go to Harford Girls Secondary School because of time constraint. So they had to postpone theirs to next week when we will be present.
CT: Thanks for sparing time from your busy schedule to talk to me on these important issues.
Sister Rita: Thank you.