Story Of A Village Development Committee Chairman: An Ambassador Of Child Protection
Yillah Sesay*, Chairman of the Village Development Committee (VDC) of Bombali Bana, Safrokor Limba Chiefdom in Bombali district has won the heart of his people. In his home town, Yillah needs no introduction. He is well known as a mediator, mobilizer, pioneer, leader and an advocate for children’s rights issues. Since 2017, his group his group has single-handedly identified, managed and solved over 30 cases of abuse, violence and exploitation against children and has unified people in this scenario which has greatly impacted the socio-economic lives of children in the community.
The children living in Bombali Bana of Safrokor Limba Chiefdom, like many other children in Bombali district, are some of the most disadvantaged children. They walk miles from their village to access safe drinking water and even further to attend secondary schools in neighbouring towns and villages.
Soon after the intervention of the UNICEF supported project in September 2017, DCI-Sierra Leone met Yillah Sesay, explained the purpose and objectives of the project that targets the disadvantaged and vulnerable children of that geographically remote location of Bombali district. Despite his constantly being surrounded by people and his heavy work load, Yillah Sesay agreed to give his best to the project and has not turned back once. “Initially, we thought it was an impossible task but things have changed so fast and we are happy because our children are becoming safer,” said Yillah.
After becoming a part of the project, Yillah Sesay along with 20 members of his Committee, chose a venue in the village for regular VDC meetings. Simultaneously, the organisation assessed and reviewed the trend and status of children’s rights issues in the village and made practical recommendations to address them. More specifically, they engaged community leaders (including tribal and community chiefs) and school authorities on crucial child protection issues, increased public and community awareness and developed practical community plans of action with clear roles and responsibilities on how to effectively address such problems. The VDC thus drafted written bylaws and also established informal community patrol teams in Bombali Bana.
Night club activity was also a severe problem in the village. It was so rampant that children below the age of 18-years would travel five to ten miles from Bombali Bana during school hours to attend night shows in neighbouring towns and villages. Many children stopped attending school to go to these night shows, while those who stayed in class were performing very poorly.
With support from DCI-Sierra Leone, Yillah Sesay – with other members of the Village Development Committee –launched awareness raising campaign on responsible enjoyment of night shows in Bombali Bana and in the nearby villages. After a series of discussions, the Paramount Chief and the school headmasters were motivated to stop this harmful practice in their respective villages.
Consequently, the Paramount Chief of Safrokor Limba chiefdom, in collaboration with community leaders, placed a Community Declaration in the respective villages to restrict night club activities to the weekend. The document is also a powerful reminder of parents, leaders and the communities’ roles and responsibilities towards the wellbeing of their children. Yillah Sesay is in many ways a pioneer and a leader.