Lobby group banks on illustrated storybook to amplify voice on child abuse

Child Protection services assistant director David Magogo shakes hands with author Lydia Matioli after the launch of the book at National Library Nairobi. [Courtesy]

A human rights organization Freely In Hope is now banking on an illustrated storybook to equip children to use the power of their voices to stop child abuse.

The book dubbed ‘Pendo’s Power’ features a girl named Pendo who helps her two friends who have encountered different forms of sexual abuse.

Pendo’s parents are conversant with the vulnerability of child sexual abuse and have educated Pendo about what abuse looks like. They have taught Pendo how she can prevent abuse by speaking up anytime she feels unsafe.

And Pendo uses this knowledge to help Bahati and Tumaini who gets the confidence to speak up about moments when they felt unsafe.

As a result, a perpetrator of child sexual abuse is taken away from the neighborhood.

Lydia Matioli, the author of the book said parents and caregivers will feel equipped to initiate and  facilitate conversations with their children surrounding consent, body autonomy, and sexual abuse prevention through the book.

“I believe that these conversations will drastically reduce the rates of child sexual abuse across the country and the world at large. Perpetrators have an advantage over children because children are uninformed, but when both children and parents are aware of sexual abuse, abusers will not have the room to continue,” Matioli said.

Matioli who doubles up as the Program Director at the Freely In Hope is also a survivor of child sexual abuse. She said her experience inspired her to create a resource that would reduce the country's alarming rate of child sexual abuse.

The themes featured in the book include consent, healthy body boundaries, safe and unsafe touch, speaking up, community values, positive parenting and justice.

“I have been inspired by the stories of survivors in our community and motivated by our common desire to create safe environments for children in Kenya and all around the world. This book is very important to me because I am now a mother to a beautiful baby girl. I am terrified of all the vulnerabilities that she could be exposed to, including sexual abuse,” she said.

According to her, she knows very well that she cannot be around her at all times and thus does not want her to go through the same experiences she encountered or worse.

“I want my daughter to be educated on what abuse could look like through the eyes of another child, and I want her to trust that my first response will always be to protect her,” she said.

A 2022 report on child sexual exploitation and abuse, dubbed “Out of the Shadows Index 2022" revealed that sexually exploited children are often let down by the criminal justice system and the slow implementation of policies in the country.

 

The report indicated that five barriers to justice for sexually abused children include legislation, policies and programmes, national capacity and commitment, justice processes and support service and recovery.

Matioli’s sentiments were echoed by Esther Njuguna from the International Justice Mission who said priority needs to be given to abuse cases as they are time sensitive.

According to her, the child is the crime scene and the evidence depletes quickly and therefore parents must be more bold and speak up about these sexual conversations.