Project to keep children safe launched

Not-for-profit group Talofa Kids Charitable Trust launched their "Keep Kids Safe Project" last Thursday as it upped the ante in its child abuse prevention and awareness program.

The project is a child sexual abuse prevention and awareness program where parents and children will engage through age-appropriate training. 

The training will include child protection and safeguarding training for adults and organisations; a fun, interactive musical program on the topic of safety for primary-aged children [Ditto's Adventure Show - from Bravehearts]; and an online safety awareness program for teenagers. 

Financial assistance, which came courtesy of the Embassy of Switzerland, was given to the Trust to ensure it makes an impact on sexual abuse prevention.

The National Human Rights Institution and the Office of the Ombudsman were also part of the launch last Thursday, where they supported the project as an important initiative focused on addressing issues surrounding the sexual abuse of children. 

The Director of NHRI, Loukinikini Vili-Lewaravu, was the keynote speaker at the launch. 

She commended the efforts of the founder and Talofa Kids Executive Director, Caroline Ryan, and her team for their effort to prevent child sexual abuse. 

Ms Vili-Leawaravu highlighted the high rates of violence against women and children in Samoa, which she said emphasises the reason why such programs like Keep Kids Safe are critical. 

"In 2017, the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development launched its Family Safety Report. In 2018, the Office of the Ombudsman launched its National Public Inquiry into Family Violence in Samoa Report," Ms Vili-Leawaravu. 

"These two national reports revealed alarmingly high statistics on the prevalence of violence within families, particularly against women and children. 

"In the Inquiry Report, 9.5 per cent of female children reported to have been raped by a family member in their lifetime, 87 per cent of children experience threats of violence in family settings and 86 per cent of children had been subjected to kicking, punching and other assaults."

She went on to say that there is no need for these reports to inform us of the prevalence of violence amongst the children, because it is constantly being reported by the media daily, especially cases of physical and sexual abuse of children. 

The NHRI launched a pilot project last year to establish Village Family Safety Committees to take a proactive role in the prevention of family violence within the village. 

"These Village Family Safety Committees are made up of people living in these villages and were carefully selected to represent all groups, including women and youth, to ensure everyone has a voice and to help address issues of violence and abuse at the grassroots level," she added.

"In conducting initial capacity building for these Committees it was observed that deeply rooted mindsets and behavioural norms continue to exist, such as 'women and girls clothing provokes sexual abuse' and the physical abuse of children. 

"It was noted that parenting approaches continue to be a challenging issue that needs to be further researched and explored in relation to family violence." 

Talofa Kids will be working closely with NHRI on the Village Family Committee project where positive parenting programmes will be developed to find alternative and non-violent methods to discipline children. 

Their goal still remains - to create a healthy and happy home environment where children can engage in open communication with their parents guided by the principles of "va tapuia" and "Faasamoa". 

Talofa Kids is a not-for-profit organisation launched last year in late February. It is a platform that highlights the well-being of children; where safe spaces are created for children; and where there are discussions about health, education, lifestyle, spiritual and cultural in raising happy and healthy children. 

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