United against sexual abuse
United against sexual abuse
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to child sexual abuse as more cases are reported. A national strategy to combat the crisis is being drafted and several organizations are working on tackling the problem. Kelela Guides is one such initiative. It is a tool designed to outline methods of identifying and reporting instances of sexual violence against children. Kelela, a newly launched digital platform, is focused on producing contents to guide and educate the public about topics mostly around gender based violence and women's rights. The first such tool produced is Kelela for Children- a guidebook for child sexual abuse protection and intervention. The contents targeted parents, teachers, caretakers and those who care for/about children. Kelela for Children is available on website and Telegram channel for free to download. It is available in Amharic. Soon it will be available in Afaan Oromo, Tigrigna, Afar, Somali, and English. The Reporter’s Hiwot Abebe sat down with Selam Mussie Tadesse, the brain behind founding Kelela Guides. She is a media and communications consultant specializing in gender and media as well as media for social change. She has eight years of experience working as a writer, strategist, campaigner, researcher, and trainer. In addition, she has managed to establish and lead multiple projects and initiatives in areas of fighting gender based violence, mainstreaming women’s rights and inclusion, media and social analysis, social movement data mapping in Africa and more. Excerpt:
Who is involved in creating Kelela Guides?
I usually divide this answer into two. There are those who were actively involved in making the guidebook from content to consultancy to design stages. This group of people includes the writing team headed by Azeb Asaminew (MD), psychiatrist. In addition to Azeb, Henok Hailu, a psychologist and Aklile Solomon, a law professional along with, Fikrete (MD), a psychiatrist, and Workneh, a psychologist who consulted and graciously commented on the content. When it comes to design, everything was done by Resolution Studio - a creative agency that was also part of the volunteer team who has been with us since the inception. Then you have all the translators who dedicated their time, knowledge, and energy to make sure the Guidebook is translated to their native language with the best quality possible. The other one is the informal team that made Kelela for Children a reality- from people who generously shared their stories to be included in the guidebook, to parents and teachers who were part of our focus group discussion, to our social media army who was part of our launch campaign... All these people who were not necessarily involved in long term and formal tasks but still their inputs and engagements were so vital that made Kelela for Children happen. That was my vision when I started this project as well-to make it a community project that as many people as possible would say, 'I was part of this project'.
When did you begin working on this project?
The project officially started in November 2018, some two years now. But the idea and all preparations started a year before then.
Why did you decide to work on Kelela for Children? What is the motivation behind?
I noticed a Facebook group where women were posting their own abuse stories. They were saying I’ve never told this to anyone but here was a platform where they could share it. I already work on these issues so it was not really a surprise to me but its clear parents don’t know when abuse occurs. It’s hard to say they don’t know it, doesn’t happen but they don’t realize how common it is. When you’ve experienced it, sometimes it feels like it only happens to you. What I wanted to do with Kelela is break the silence, break the barrier between parents and children. I wanted to create language so people can talk about these things. Caretakers or parents can communicate with children using this tool. I also wanted to enable the system created to function correctly. After I saw these posts, I versioned Kelela but it took a year to come up with a prototype.
According to your contents on social media, Kelela is featured as a platform built to address social harms mostly missing public discussions and awareness. What issues aside from children rights and abuses as well as reporting guidelines are you dealing with?
Our main area of focus will be sexual violence, Gender Based Violence/Violence against Women, women's right, and gender equality. Kelela for Children falls into the sexual violence category and particularly on children. In the future, we are looking to make more content and tools to address various issues.
How are Kelela services accessible to people? What platforms are you using to make sure people find it?
Kelela is accessible online now - it's a website with multiple social media platforms (Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). All contents and tools we create will be available on these platforms. As Kelela for Children is mainly a printable Guidebook, we are working with local organizations to facilitate printing and distribution to communities and institutions who can distribute it to actual users. So, whenever the format and also capacity allows it, we will have hard copies like this but otherwise we use digital platforms and broadcast mediums to reach a wider audience.
Who should use the guide? Who are the targeted audiences?
The Guide is primarily meant for parents, caretakers, guardians, and teachers. This is because these are people who have firsthand communication with children on everyday basis and they are best suited to protect them from sexual violence and also intervene if it ever happens. The secondary audiences are people working on the Right sectors - specifically child rights - law practitioners, media practitioners, policy makers, and people and institutions, having direct contact with children and have genuine interest to protect them.
Have you partnered with the government or civil societies to work on this project?
Not really. In all fairness, we also didn't make a request. We just wanted to make it happen and make the content accessible for free so anyone interested can use it however they want. But we had key people who are affiliated with government offices and associations have reviewed and endorsed Kelela for Children. Those are Meron Aragaw, former President of EWLA and current deputy head of Addis Ababa Women, Youth, and Children's Affair Office as well as Dawit Assefa (MD, psychiatrist) who is the current president of Ethiopian Psychiatrists Association.
What is the feedback so far?
The feedback has been incredible so far. We have been getting some messages and social media comments from people saying they found it to be very helpful. We also held a poll on our Telegram channel about a week after we launched the Guidebook. Over 150 people participated in the poll and 74 percent said they found it to be very useful and 15 percent said they found it to be useful.
What are your future plans?
We plan to make more tools and contents like Kelela for Children in the future. We hope it won't take us too much time like this one though. Our immediate plan with regards to Kelela for Children is to produce audiobooks so it will be accessible for people who cannot read for different reasons, and also make more interactive visuals that broadcast media houses can use other than just social media. We are also in the process of finalizing partnerships with initiatives and individuals from other African countries to contextualize and translate it to their local languages.