Stockholm / Freetown / Geneva – 14 November 2016. Abdul Manaff Kemokai, Executive Director of Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone, received the Child 10 Award, which was launched by the Sophie Stenbeck Family Foundation and Reach for Change in order to recognise, support and connect bold leaders of grassroots organizations that work with innovative solutions to address urgent and pressing issues for children. This year’s edition was dedicated to the issue of “children on the run”.
The 2016 Child 10 Award Committee honoured Abdul Manaff Kemokai for the tremendous work conducted by DCI-Sierra Leone through its Socio-Legal Defence Centres (SLDCs). These Centres provide direct socio-legal assistance to children and ensure that they are given adequate protection and access to justice. DCI’s socio-legal interventions follow a comprehensive child rights-based, age and gender-sensitive approach that allows to best respond to the specific needs of children, particularly those living in the streets and running away from their homes and from other situations of violence.
DCI notes that progress has been achieved in combating violence and exploitation of children in Sierra Leone. Violence against children is higher on the policy agenda, and advocacy efforts have a growing impact on improving adherence to international norms and standards on children’s protection from violence. Challenges however still remain in Sierra Leone, with insufficient investment in violence prevention, uncoordinated policy interventions, unconsolidated and poorly-enforced legislation, scarce data and research on violence and exploitation, and limited recovery and reintegration services.
Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone has established six Socio-Legal Defence Centres (SLDC) across the different national districts. These Centres have become the go-to places for children on the run and children living in the streets, where they can freely talk about their issues and needs, and receive comprehensive assistance and protection.
Abdul Manaff Kemokai said, “It is not uncommon to see children exploited as domestic workers, while others end up in the streets. Many street children in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have become involved in criminal activities because their most basic needs cannot be satisfied. Many of them are arrested by police for loitering, or rounded up at police raids. But as far as the police is concerned, the punishment of street children continues to prevail over protection mechanisms to get them out of the streets. They need help, and we need the whole situation to change: this is what we are here for.”
DCI-Sierra Leone is also actively involved in the fight against child trafficking, which particularly affects children on the run. In 2015 alone, DCI-Sierra Leone facilitated the reintegration of 322 child victims of internal and cross-border trafficking, including the case of three Sierra Leonean children that had been trafficked to Liberia and then Mauritania. Together with DCI-Liberia, they provided direct legal aid and representation to the three child victims and ensured their repatriation and reintegration.
Moreover, since 2014, DCI-Sierra Leone has led concerted civil society efforts and has worked closely with government representatives of Member States of the Mano River Union (MRU – Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) to establish a sub-regional child protection policy, particularly focusing on children on the move. The third MRU convening will take place from 23-26 November 2016 in Sierra Leone, and will build on the workshops conducted with immigration and police officials and local community members in June and July 2016 (read related article here).
During the award ceremony, Mr. Kemokai said he was receiving the award on behalf of Defence for Children International – Sierra Leone, and dedicated it to all child survivors of exploitation, violence and abuse.
Nine other child rights activists were awarded the prize, including: Josefa Condori Quispe (CAITH, Peru), Anta Mbow (Empire des Enfants, Senegal), Martine Umulisa (Kaami Arts, Rwanda), Christopher & David Mikkelsen (REFUNITE, Denmark), Debbie Beadle (ECPAT UK Youth Programme, UK), Eve Saosarin (M’Lop Tapang, Cambodia), Delphine Moralis (Missing Children Europe, Belgium), Nyakwesi Mujaya (Makini, Tanzania) and Margaretha Ubels and Ishmael Hammond (Special Attention Project, Ghana).
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