Peter, 15, was born deaf but has dedicated his young life to communicating to audiences across his native Kenya about protecting children from sexual abuse. With support from Handicap International, he recently spoke at the Kenyan Children’s Assembly, a national government body for children.
“Using a sign language interpreter, I spoke to other children about their rights,” says Peter. “It was amazing.”
Peter is a member of the child advisory committee for Ubuntu Care, a Handicap International project in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi dedicated to ending sexual violence against children, especially children with disabilities.
“Children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be victims of sexual violence,” says Lucy Muchiri, child protection officer for Handicap International’s Ubuntu Care project in Kenya. “And 90% of children with intellectual impairments have suffered some form of sexual violence.”
Some 100,000 children play an active role in preparing and developing the Ubuntu Care project. “In Kenya, for example, we run children’s clubs in 13 schools,” says Lucy. “They are aged between 10 and 15, and they perform plays about sexual violence, disability, and children’s rights. They moderate debates and teach people about the risk of violence and how to protect themselves.”
Peter has become an expert in children’s rights. “Being deaf and a children’s rights advocate sends out a strong message, for Peter and for all children with disabilities,” says Lisa. “People still have reservations about disability here, but when they meet Peter, they say: ‘Even people with disabilities are worth their weight in gold!’”
Handicap International and its partners also raise awareness of children’s rights among parents, communities, teachers, and disabled people’s organizations. Staff and partners assist victims and refer them to support services.
Their efforts are paying off. Robert, a teacher who participated in a Handicap International sexual violence training, helped one of his students seek justice after he learned that the boy had been raped. “Thanks to Handicap International’s support, I knew exactly what to do,” says Robert. “I told his parents and made a statement to the police. The rapist was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Handicap International ensured the student had a lawyer. This is the fifth case uncovered in two years in my school, which is too low considering the number of children who fall victim to sexual violence in the region. Handicap International needs to continue its efforts so that we can help other children in the same situation.”