Benedict lives in Sierra Leone, Africa. For years he has tried to bring attention to child marriage and teenage pregnancy. Among other things, he organizes activities during an annual local event, which is about raising awareness against child abuse and violence against children.
During the last one, he organized gatherings to inform people in his surroundings about his campaign against child marriages and teenage pregnancies. They, then, took it to the streets for three days with megaphones, and imams as well as pastors were asked to share the message in mosques and churches. With this campaign Benedict was able to reach 250 children and 300 youths! The next time Benedict would like to get more religious leaders involved, design colorful banners and set up a radio show, and thus be able to continue spreading his message.
Benedict told us more about his work. Here’s what he said:
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT KIDS RIGTS CHANGEMAKER PROGRAMME? I find out about the KidsRights changemakers program through the KidsRights’ International Children’s Peace Prize 2016 and 2018 competitions/call for nominations in which I was a nominee. I was later contacted by one of the officers of the changemakers program with a project plan proposition. After its execution and after my reporting, I had the opportunity to become a “fund-catcher”, so to execute another project with financial support by KidsRights. I am currently preparing to implement this new project in my community.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO BECOME A CHAGEMAKER? I have participated in the Taia Development Programme’s team on the prevention of child abuse and violence against children, every year. There we have been taught about the impact of child abuse and violence against children and youths, especially child marriage and teenage pregnancy. This training inspired me to become a changemaker on child marriage and teenage pregnancy. The other issues that inspires me to be a changemaker is what I witness in my community. Indeed, many children, especially girls, are being taken out of primary and secondary schools and forced merry older, sometimes even above fifty years old, men. They become pregnant below the ages of eighteen, most of the time. The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child and the 2007 Child Rights Act of Sierra Leone also inspires me to do changemakers work, especially to prevent child marriage and teenage pregnancy. Indeed, Sierra Leone is one of the countries with the highest maternal and infant mortality rate in world. Child marriage and teenage pregnancy is one of the causes, as I also witness in my community. This also inspires me to do changemenkers work. The intergenerational circle of poverty caused by child marriage and teenage pregnancy also inspires me to do changemakers work in my community. My passion, empathy and care for my peers also inspires me to do changemakers work.
THE CHALLENGES I ENCOUNTER DURING MY CHANGEMAKER WORKS ARE: The slow acceptance of tribal authorities to buy in the ideas of child marriage and teenage pregnancy prevention in my community was a challenge. Child marriage and teenage pregnancy has been in existence for the past decades and has been endemic. It seems as a taboo/forbidden issue to discuss in my community. So, it was a difficult task to break the culture and to eradicate it in one of event. Community mobilization was a challenge. It was difficult for me to gather elders and talk to them as a child on child marriage and teenage pregnancy. High financial and materials expectation from volunteers and other community stakeholders was also a challenge. Finally, transportation was also a constraint for me, since I have to move from one community to another during my changemaker work.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST DREAM ON MY ACTIVITIES? My biggest dream is to expand the prevention of child marriage and teenage pregnancy activities in all the Fourteen chiefdoms in the Moyamba district, as a changemaker of the KidsRights foundation.
WHAT ADVISE WILL YOU GIVE TO OTHER CHILDRE WHO WANT TO BECOME CHANGMAKERS? The advices I want to give to other children that want to be changemakers are that: They need to dream big to become a changemaker, but they should start small to achieve their dreams. Children should think for themselves and take actions on issues that affect their lives. Also, it will never happen in a day. It takes time, sacrifice, commitment, dedication and patience.