“Child Sexual Abuse is a Growing Social Problem”, Says a Feminist and Child Rights Activist

With Rohey Jadama

Welcome to another edition of Children’s Corner. In today’s edition, we are featuring an interview we had with Modou Lamin Modou Lamin DaviesDavies, the vice chairperson and founding member of the HE for SHE Campaign Youth Platform The Gambia which consists of a network of young people (mostly males) from various youth organizations. It is a platform which seeks to address Gender Based Violence (GBV) by involving the male in the advocacy and campaigning to curb GBV. Modou was also a member of Voice of the Young, under the Child protection Alliance (CPA) as well as an active member of other youth based organisations. He will be talking about FGM, child sexual exploitation, child marriage and how he is advocating for harmful traditional practices to be curbed in the Gambia.

Children’s Corner: Could you introduce yourself to our esteemed readers?

Modou Lamin: First of all, I am honored to be on this edition of the Children’s Corner. For the esteemed readers of this Column, my Name is Modou Lamin Davies. I was born in Bakau, Kanifing Municipality. I am a Gambian from a Krio (AKU) speaking family. I am a feminist and child rights activist. This is as a result of my involvement with different child and youth led organizations for the past 7 years. I have volunteered with different organizations such as The Voice of the Young, Young People in the Media. Currently, I am the vice chairperson and a founding member of the HE for SHE campaign youth platform The Gambia, which consists of a network of young people (mostly males) from various youth organizations. The platform leads the He for She campaign initiative targeting young people, especially men, to address gender-based violence through advocacy and campaigning. I am also the chairperson of the National Child and Youth Advisory Board, which serves as a platform for children and youth to discuss issues of violence against children through awareness raising, advocacy and open discussions.

Children’s Corner: You have dedicated your time to advocating child rights issues. What motivates you into this?

Modou Lamin: My motivation into this noble cause was steamed up by my passion for women and children, thus my journey started in 2008 with Voice of the Young, an organization that molded and set the path for me to become a betterperson. Barely a month following a life skills training organized by the Child Protection Alliance (CPA)., I decided to join the Voice of the Young which is under the auspices of the CPA. This marked the commencement of a long journey which I have no regret in pursuing by standing up and advocating for the rights of women and children at all times. I see on a daily basis the growing rate of violence against children, mostly perpetrated by adults, such as child sexual abuse, female genital mutilation and child marriage. Joining Voice of the Young has shaped me into being the activist I ought to be. I was accorded the privilege of being trained on advocacy, child rights and child protection issues and other necessary skills, which had become a very powerful weapon in my activism. This had shaped me into an ideal role model for a lot of children in the streets. Hence, I can safely say my motivation came from the children in the streets who look up to me and also acknowledge the work I am doing.

Children’s Corner: FGM continues to be the most controversial   topic globally and it is a serious human rights abuse in the Gambia. As an activist, how will you advocate for the enactment of a Law to criminalise it?

Modou Lamin: My position on FGM is that it is a gross violation of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. However, we should always take into account that this is a sensitive cultural issue in the Gambia. So we should take that into consideration when talking to communities about FGM. Having a law to criminalize it is very good but it’s much better if we can cleanse the minds of people to know that FGM has serious reproductive and health consequences on women and girls and thus creating the conscious minds of communities to voluntarily abandon it would be the best thing. The advocacy for the banning of FGM has been going on for decades and I think we should now go back to the drawing board and rejuvenate the spirit of activism in us and also use a very holistic approach in our advocacy to curb this menace.

Children’s Corner: Child marriage threatens girls’ lives, health, education and it limits their future prospects and it is a human rights violation. How will you advocate changing this menace?

Modou Lamin: Child marriage is, without an iota of doubt, a threat to the health of children and also limits their prospects in life. But most importantly, it violates their right to education and good health and therefore it is a great concern for me as a feminist and Child rights activist. I will surely join hands with other networks and youth organizations to continue sensitizing people, especially our parents, to ensure that we create the consciousness among the people about the effects of child marriage. In this way, I hope that sooner than later the issue of child marriage will become history.

Children’ Corner: Child Sexual abuse and exploitation is a growing problem in the Gambia. As an activist, how will you advocate for the curbing of this menace?

Modou Lamin: The issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation is not as controversial as early marriage and FGM, but it is a growing social problem that also violates the fundamental rights of children to protection. I know in the Gambia we have the necessary laws to protect children from it, such as the Constitution of the Gambia which is the supreme law of the land, the Children’s Act 2005, Women’s Act 2010 and the Sexual Offences Act 2013, just to name a few. Thus, the full implementation of these laws becomes a problem. Furthermore, the obligation for our government to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of children still remains to be fully realized. Therefore, as an activist, I will direct my advocacy in this context to institutions and organizations that have the legal mandate to ensure the full implementation of these laws and raise awareness of communities to demand for the fulfillment of the rights of children to protection from abuse and exploitation.

Children’s Corner: What are some of the child rights violations facing children in your community and its surrounding?

Modou Lamin: Apart from the issues discussed above, the issue of physical abuse of children, baby abandonment, teenage pregnancy and force marriage are of great concern to me. Therefore, I will continue to advocate for the protection of children from these forms of abuse and rights violations in our communities to ensure our children live in a protective environment that nurtures their potentials.

Children’s Corner: What are your last words to parents and care givers of children?

Modou Lamin: As for my final words for this Column to the parents/caregivers, duty bearers and the communities, I will like to say to them that defending and protecting the rights of children is a noble cause that every Gambian should pursue to ensure the most precious resource of our nation – children are sustained with the right qualities for national development. Therefore, I’m urging people to desist from the “MASLAHA” syndrome that is dragging our work behind in the creation of a ‘Child Friendly Gambia’ and start reporting cases of abuse and exploitation. I will end with a quotation that was said by Dante Alighieri that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crises, maintain their neutrality”.

Children’s Corner: Thank you for granting us an interview?

Modou Lamin: Thank you too.