One Woman’s Roar Against Sexual Violence in African Schools #WD2023
Kigali, Rwanda — In the fight against sexual violence against children in Africa, one name stands out: Kanga Rasi.
Driven by her own experiences as a survivor of childhood sexual violence, Kanga is an inspiring leader who is leading the charge to end violence against children throughout the continent.
“I am a survivor of childhood sexual violence at 10. My lived experience motivated me to do this. This for me, it’s not work. For me, it’s that I wouldn’t wish another child, whether a girl or boy to experience what I did, because I know the impact of it, whether psychologically, whether health-wise, whether how you show up in society, how it affects also you as an individual,” she said.
Kanga is a beacon of hope for others who have been through similar experiences.
Her vision extends beyond her own personal healing, as she recognizes the urgent need for a society that safeguards the innocence and well-being of children. She is a tireless advocate for prevention, awareness, and support systems for survivors. She is determined to create a world where no child has to experience violence, and she is working tirelessly to make that vision a reality. Over the past nine years, she has worked with a variety of organizations at the international, regional, national, and grassroots levels to address issues such as gender-based violence, reproductive rights, education, and women in leadership.
Kanga said that “if we want children to reach their full potential, we need to break down the barriers that stand in their way. Some of these barriers are systemic, but we can still make a difference by speaking out about our lived experiences and working to change the systems that perpetuate child abuse and neglect. By working together, we can ensure that all children have the opportunity to live their best lives”.
“Inculcating school-based gender-based violence (SRGBV) in our curriculums is important,” she said. “This should start with teacher training programs so that teachers understand what GBV is and how to talk to students about it. Once GBV is included in the curriculum, teachers should be aware of how to relay the information to students in a way that is both informative and sensitive. Additionally, students should be given opportunities to participate in crafting solutions to GBV, as their lived experiences are essential to developing effective prevention and response strategies.”
Gender-Based Violence in Schools – A Silent Epidemic
Schools are meant to be safe places for children to learn and grow. Yet, a chilling reality has shattered this ideal, plunging schools into the depths of a global crisis. Violence, once deemed unthinkable within these sacred spaces, has emerged as a relentless force, gripping the hearts of 246 million learners worldwide, reports UNESCO.
Violence can take many forms, including sexual harassment, physical assault, bullying, discrimination, verbal abuse, and harmful gender norms.
Africa, like many regions across the globe, faces significant challenges in addressing school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV). It is estimated that one in three girls in sub-Saharan Africa will experience some form of SRGBV during her school years, according to UNESCO. Alarming statistics show that between 46% and 78% of adolescent girls in African schools have experienced some form of SRGBV. This can have a devastating impact on girls’ education, mental health, and overall well-being and perpetuate a cycle of gender inequality. As a result, many girls are forced to avoid school, perform below their potential, or even drop out altogether. This violence has a significant negative impact on the educational achievements of female students.
SRGBV encompasses various forms, including sexual harassment, assault, bullying, discrimination, and harmful gender norms.
The consequences of SRGBV are far-reaching.
However, the Brave Movement is emerging as a global force. The organization aims to end all forms of sexual violence against children. It operates on the belief that survivors should be at the forefront of the fight against sexual violence, and their voices and experiences should guide the movement’s actions. The Brave Movement, launched in April 2022, has experienced significant growth. The movement has members from around the world, with particularly rapid growth in Africa and Europe.
The Brave Movement’s advocacy is focused on these three pillars: prevention, healing, and justice. The movement believes that by working together, these partners can make a real difference in the lives of children who have been affected by violence.
Anna Macdonald, the Executive Director of Brave Movement, says that the Brave Movement is a survivor-led activist movement that works to end childhood sexual violence in Africa. The organization is committed to removing the stigma associated with survivors of childhood violence and creating a world where all children can grow up safe and free from fear. Brave Movement operates on a continent-wide level, with a substantial membership base in countries like Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa. The organization is actively engaged in Pan-African objectives, including joint campaigns and support for national-led initiatives.
The Brave Movement is a powerful example of how survivors of childhood sexual violence can use their voices to create positive change.
“One of its key principles is to amplify the voices of survivors, ensuring that they are able to present their perspectives and be heard by decision-makers when discussing policy solutions,” Macdonald said. “The organization firmly believes that individuals who have experienced the trauma of childhood sexual violence are well-positioned to advocate for effective measures to prevent such trauma for future generations.”
“Brave Movement advocates for Survivor councils to provide advice to governments and to include survivors in all policy dialogues. This involvement extends to sectors such as education, sports, and religion, where Brave Movement works to enhance safety and address issues related to childhood violence,” said Macdonald. “The majority of our leadership team are survivors. Our 15-member leadership group is made up of survivors from 12 different countries. They advise and develop our organization’s policies and aspirations, and they are our spokespeople. For example, Kanga Rasi, our Africa campaign manager, is a survivor and an accomplished activist.”
The United Nations declared November 18 as the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence. The day is intended to spotlight the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and to stress the need for prevention, for perpetrators to be brought to justice, and for victims to be given a voice as part of the long process of healing.
“This is a key success, as many African countries took part in campaigns last year to speak out against childhood violence,” said Kanga. “The UN Declaration has set aside this time to raise awareness of the issue and to promote best practices for preventing violence against children.”
“In Kenya, some partners have been instrumental in influencing the Children’s Act to incorporate provisions that protect children from violence. The Act currently addresses the evolving nature of child violence, including online safety. For example, there have been cases of live-streamed violence against children and online grooming,” she added. “Kenya has been successful in preventing these atrocities because of the Children’s Act and the work of its partners. However, there is still more work to be done. The different countries and partners involved in the Era Two Week are coming together to share best practices and to develop new strategies for preventing childhood violence.”
The purpose of the Era Two Week, as declared by the United Nations, is to bring attention to and address the issue of child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence.
Macdonald also added that in 2023, “The Brave movement successfully campaigned with the G7 countries to secure a commitment from their ministers to fund and resource the ending of childhood violence.”
“This was a significant achievement because the impact of childhood violence costs the world billions of dollars in terms of the trauma that a child may grow up into an adult with unresolved trauma and the many problems that can cause in society. She said that getting an actual commitment from some of the most well-resourced countries in the world to invest in preventing child violence was a first step towards a successful campaign to make this a worldwide initiative.”
Kanga said, “First and foremost, I believe that all African countries should ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This is an important charter that protects the rights of all children, especially in Africa. In addition, we need to address the issue of intrafamilial sexual violence, which is a major problem in Africa. This includes incest, whether it is committed by a father, uncle, or aunt. We need to look at how things have been done in the past and find ways to change them so that children are protected from this type of violence.”
“Online safety and sexual violence are major concerns for children today. There are a number of things that can be done to prevent these issues, including strong policies and implementation, education, and support. Funding is essential for preventing these issues, and the current reality for many children is that they do not feel safe online or in school. We need to create a world where children feel safe and protected, and this is possible if we invest in prevention and support.”
Elevating the voices of survivors
At the Women Deliver conference, Macdonald’s message to women is that childhood sexual violence is a feminist issue and a gender issue that is intersectional with many other issues, such as inequality, marginalization, and education. She is calling on women to recognize that childhood sexual violence is a serious issue that affects them disproportionately. She is also urging them to demand that safeguarding measures be put in place to protect children from violence. She highlights the fact that girls and women are disproportionately affected by violence, both as children and as adults, and that childhood sexual violence is not possible to address without also addressing these other issues. She calls for safeguarding measures to be put in place to protect children from violence, including measures such as providing safe and inclusive environments and making it easy for people to report concerns.
Kanga encourages Women Deliver to incorporate the lived experiences of survivors into their advocacy efforts to end childhood violence. She believes that survivors’ lived experiences are essential to advocacy because they cannot be taken away and can inform policy and interventions in ways that data and research cannot. Survivors can share their stories to raise awareness of the issue and build support for change, and they can provide insights into the challenges of healing from childhood violence, which can help to develop more effective interventions.