VMM International’s Safeguarding & Protection Programme Partners in Sierra Leone
VMM Volunteer, Jeana Baker is not long back from Sierra Leone, where she spent nearly eight months assessing the needs and current priorities for VMM International’s partners in Sierra Leone.
Based on the needs assessments and close interactions with VMM International’s partners, there is strong evidence to suggest that child safeguarding is a top priority. As in other areas where we operate, there is a high prevalence of early marriage and teenage pregnancy throughout Sierra Leone, partners are keen to address child rights’ issues and for further support and guidance.
VMM International Partner, University of Makeni
During Jeana’s visit, fifteen direct beneficiaries between the ages of 14-16 attended a needs assessment workshop run by University of Makeni (UNIMAK), which is a direct product of the training and support of VMM International’s Safeguarding and Protection Programme. The attendees raised the major issues which affect them: early child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child neglect including child labour and prostitution as well as sexual harassment in school.
In response to the social morass affecting teenagers, a core team from the University of Makeni have come together to draft a pilot project proposal that ameliorates child safeguarding by offering peer support and professional counselling.
VMM International Partner, Caritas Makeni
For Caritas Makeni, an extended branch of the Diocese of Makeni, child protection is at the centre of its work in the 21 parishes located in the remotest areas of the Northern Province. In the community of Mathadi, a rural, isolated settlement with poor access to basic services, teenagers are quickly married off to avoid ‘shame’ in the families should an adolescent succumb to pregnancy.
Caritas Makeni has put forth a pilot project proposal that seeks to build a Model Community by ensuring the following:
- Right to quality education
- Right to health and WASH (Water And Sanitation for Health)
- Right to sustainable livelihoods
- Advocacy for human rights – awareness and protection to keep girls in school to avoid early marriage
- Enhance and promote the missionary approach to development in partnership with UNICEF for increased water access and Ministry of Social Welfare for child protection support and intervention
Training and Oversight, the Pathway to Safeguarding Children
These findings from the field justify the need to support child safeguarding, and future funding will only strengthen this endeavour in Sierra Leone. The two recent proposals submitted to Misean Cara from Unimak and Caritas aim to establish trust and create pathways in the communities to enhance the rights and protection of the child. To ensure best practices and standards, up-to-date safeguarding training and oversight remain a critical, albeit urgent, need for VMM International’s partners in Sierra Leone.
By Jeana Baker