Handicap International has launched a regional project to prevent sexual violence against children with disabilities in Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya. The organisation decided to take action after learning that children with disabilities are 3 to 4 times more likely to be affected by physical and sexual violence than children without disabilities.

“The data is very disturbing,” says Sofia Hedjam, regional programme coordinator. “For example, 90% of children with intellectual impairments are thought to have suffered some form of sexual abuse. Sexual violence towards children with disabilities is still taboo, both internationally and locally.”

“Because of cultural beliefs and deeply-rooted ideas, most victims are excluded from public life, so they don’t receive information on their rights or they’re unaware that they even have any. Worse still, children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities are totally dependent – financially and psychologically – on their aggressors, who are often family members or friends. What’s more, the people who commit this abuse are rarely brought before the courts.”

One of the strengths of the regional “Ubuntu Care” project, officially launched in Kigali in April 2013, is the fact that children play a vital role in their own protection. “They’ll be involved at each stage of the project, from the conception and development of activities to their evaluation. We’ll use things children enjoy, like theatre, art or games, to get our message across” explains Sofia. “We need to make sure these children are included on existing protection committees in schools or children’s clubs. They need to be given a voice.”

“Families and communities will also be included in the process to enhance the quality of prevention and intervention activities and to better protect children with disabilities against sexual violence. The data gathered in these three countries during the project will be used as part of regional, national and international advocacy actions to raise awareness of the violence to which children with disabilities are particularly exposed due to their extreme vulnerability.” 

Source Article from Humanity & Inclusion

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