Experts estimate that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday! However, the good news is that if parents and children are armed with the right resources, we can prevent it. This is why LagosMums interviewed Chimfumnanya Nwandu, founder of We are For the Child Foundation (WFC); an NGO that fights against child sexual abuse and gender-based violence. Read as she tells us more about herself her NGO and how parents can protect their children.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Chimfumnanya Nwandu mostly called Nana for short. I am a University of Kent law school graduate and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2014. I am very passionate about women and children. As a lawyer and activist, a lot of the work I do is hinged on advocating for a better child protection system in Nigeria and against gender-based violence.
I live in Enugu State, Nigeria. I am a wife and a mother to two great boys. I’m a child of God which encompasses all that I am and how I serve. The grace of God keeps helping me and directing me in achieving the purpose for which I was put on earth.
Tell us about your NGO – We are For the Child Foundation (WFC)
I founded We are For the Child Foundation (WFC) in 2017 with a goal to end violence against children especially child sexual abuse. It is an NGO based in Enugu State and so a lot of our work is done in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Our work throughout the years has made us expand our goals to include a fight against gender-based violence because ultimately children are still affected. I can describe my NGO as simply being the voice of the children.
We believe in the power of information and collaborative efforts with other NGOs in fighting violence against women and children and that is why we work hand in hand with the African Network for the Prevention Against Child Abuse and Neglect and Child Protection Network (ANPPCAN). This partnership helps us to effectively provide rehabilitative services to our victims and their families and the investigation of cases, arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of violence against children and women.
What inspired you to start it?
At the age of five, I was sexually abused and I had no understanding about what happened for a very long time. What I did feel was shame and guilt as if it was all my fault. As I got older, I realized a lot of my friends had been sexually abused too but in different ways. I believe this was when my healing began. I felt a sense of relief as soon as I realized I was not alone.
This all sparked a fire within me for this cause. In realizing that my country’s conservatism fostered the culture of silence on this issue, I decided to bridge the gap between our culture and a child’s right to know all that pertains to her rights.
How has the journey been so far?
The journey so far has been rewarding. I am learning a lot as I embark on this journey to bring change. I am grateful to my mentors who advise me and motivate me when it seems like the systems in place do not understand the need to protect and preserve the innocence of children.
WFC has embarked on outreaches in the major slums in Enugu State. We also carry out the Courage to Speak Out Programme across Primary and Secondary Schools, educating kids with the aim to help them understand abuse in all its forms and to recognize the signs and to know how to protect themselves.
We inculcate different methods of teaching in order to get the message across in age-appropriate terms. For example, using animated videos and children’s books for the kids in primary schools. The distinct thing about our programmes is that we visit these schools on a scheduled basis. This is to ensure we engrave our lessons in the minds of the children. We also educate parents, teachers and caregivers about their important role in shattering the silence.
So far, we have been able to reach a total of about eight thousand students (8,000) across thirteen schools in the South East. Of course, all this work would not have been possible without our volunteers and members.
As a member of the Child Protection Network, we work with other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the government and law enforcement agencies, there is an effective case management cycle to adequately respond to children who have been victims of abuse.
It is important to point out that there is still a lot of work to be done. Our culture, traditions and religious practices are factors that enable violence against children and women. Another huge challenge we face in Nigeria is improving access to supportive services for victims of abuse.
Tell us about your vlog
I am a strong believer in the power of information and knowledge in preventing child sexual abuse. I know that if I was taught as a child about what child sexual abuse meant, the risk of abuse would have been reduced.
To put an end to the culture of silence that erodes child sexual abuse and to educate parents/caregivers to help them protect their kids; I decided to start a weekly vlog called “Leading Strings”.
Why the name “Leading Strings”?
Originally, leading strings was a type of child harness that was used in the 17th or 18th Century in Europe, to support a child from falling or straying too far, this is synonymous to my ultimate goal in making these weekly vlogs, and that is to shatter the silence of sexual abuse which would, in turn, support the child and keep them from being an easy prey for the predator.
There is far too much misinformation about sexual abuse and sexual predators. Whether or not you want to believe, your child is currently at risk, obtaining as much information as you can on the signs of abuse as well as signs of a predator, the better chance you stand in protecting your children.
So, every week I will be sharing on different topics such as; tips on how to spot a sexual predator if a child should be blamed for sexual abuse, how to talk to your children about sexual abuse and so on. It is my prayer that these vlogs help a parent, sister, uncle and caregiver who has a child or knows a child.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
According to the 1999 WHO Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention; “Child Sexual Abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society“. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person.
Are there any myths?
Yes! there are so many myths, just to name a few:
1. THAT child sexual abuse only happens to a certain type or group of people probably based on economic status, ethnicity or neighbourhood. Wrong! It can happen to anyone
2. THAT only girls get sexually abused. Wrong! boys get abused too.
3. THAT it is damaging to give my child information about sexual abuse. NO! a child who is not informed can be easy prey for sexual predators. A predator’s greatest fear is the possibility of getting caught. This means that a child who has information can speak up or report abuse or attempted abuse.
4. THAT a child must have done something to cause the abuse. This is false! Blame should never shift from the person who took an action to the victim.
5. THAT sexual predators are strangers or dirty old men. Wrong! an abuser can be anyone from every walk of life. In fact, 90% of the time, a child knows the abuser who is a close family friend or member. This means that 10% of the time an abuser is a stranger.
6. THAT children do not abuse children. Wrong! 40% of abusers are children (according to darknesstolight.com)
What challenges do you see parents facing today?
I would say I can personally identify two challenges:
Time management: Finding a balance in spending time with the children, working to provide for the family, spending alone time with your spouse and still making your walk with God a priority.
The Challenge in raising kids in this digital age with mobile phones and social media. Finding ways to use this digital age to your advantage and still have some form of check and control in the use.
How can parents protect their children against sexual abuse?
I cannot overemphasize this enough, educate yourself as a parent. It is not the child’s responsibility to protect himself or herself; it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and then empower our kids, they are truly counting on us. Thankfully, my weekly vlogs are there to help you educate yourself and your child.
Again, believe your child and take action. Doing nothing is not an option and blaming that child is also not an option.
Name 3 things you think parents need to be successful in raising children today
I believe those 3 things would be:
1. Spending time with your children to know them and to instil values and principles that would help them grow up into responsible adults.
2. Personally, I am learning to depend on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in raising my sons. I am also deliberate in educating myself. The world is changing, it is a different world from when I was raised, I do not know it all. When I do not know, I am very eager to ask for advice or do my research or go on LagosMums to read about how other mums have handled certain situations.
3. A healthy environment where children feel loved and supported. I was raised by a single mum; she supported my brother and I in every way possible. She believed in us and that helped us tremendously in the way we perceived and saw the world. In the same vein, for husbands and wives; it should be remembered that it is a collaborative effort in raising the children. These children should be raised in an environment free from infidelity, emotional, physical and verbal abuse because it affects the development of a child.
How can you be contacted?
You can reach me via email with [email protected] or follow me on Instagram and Facebook for child safety tips or to know what projects my Foundation is working on. Do not forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for weekly tips and information on how to protect your children.
I love receiving questions and suggestions! Feel very free to email or send me a message, you will definitely get a quick reply.
Tell us what you love about LagosMums
LagosMums for me, has been a great resource on advice on how to be a wife and a mum. I love that it’s a platform that celebrates women and the powerful roles women play in the family. The articles and testimonies shared, certainly makes me feel like I am not alone when I am faced with some issues either as a wife or mum or career woman. That is why I am so excited about collaborating with LagosMums, Nigeria’s number one parenting and lifestyle blog in sharing my weekly vlogs “Leading Strings”.
There is a lot to learn from this interview! Stay tuned as we will be sharing more videos and tips from her on lagosmums.com.