Nelson Mandela is known to have said “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.“. In a society where children face various challenges in the hands of those who are deemed to be their caretakers, it is important that we are aware of the many dangers that children face and how to defend them against them. So, the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Arts decided take World Children’s Day 2021 as an opportunity to raise awareness on child abuse, including child sexual abuse (CSA).
Forget-Me-Not was a project conducted by the Community Service avenue of the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Arts. Chaired by Rtr. Amasha Kalyanapriya, this project was conducted with the aim of increasing awareness within the society about child abuse in its many forms. While the average person, when confronted with the words “child abuse”, might immediately think of physical violence directed towards a child, it is important to understand that there are more dynamics within the act of abusing a child that merely raising a hand against them. It was our aim, through this project, to help the society at large understand that child abuse can manifest itself in many forms, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect and negligence of the child, emotional ill-treatment and exploitation of the child for commercial and non-commercial reasons, and much more.
The initial phase of Forget-Me-Not took the form of an educational poster campaign, which explored various topics such as the prevalence of child abuse within our country, myths and facts regarding this topic as well as how to recognize the signs of abuse in a child. These posters were shared through various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for the purpose of increasing the outreach of the project. In addition, all posters were shared bilingually, in both Sinhala and English.
The second phase of this project took place as an online panel discussion on one of the most important and most prevalent forms of child abuse, namely Child Sexual Abuse or CSA. The resource persons for this discussion were from the Concrete Angels Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to reducing preventing child sexual abuse in Sri Lanka, and run by a group young girls. One of the panellists was Ms. Shiandra Gooneratne, who is the Founder of Concrete Angels. The other panellists were Ms Rebecca Kulanayagam, the Assistant Head of PR of Concrete Angels and Ms Dileksha Senaratne, the coordinator for programs and logistics. The session was moderated by Rtr. Sithmi Edirisinghe. During the session, there was an extensive discussion on various topics such as the different types of child sexual abuse, the long term and short-term effects of CSA, the male victims of CSA, the legal systems that are in place to help the victims of CSA and much more.
It is our belief that this project contributed towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of reduced inequalities, and that it helped towards educating the society on this sensitive topic. We thank all those who assisted us in this project, and hope that this was one little step in the direction of eradicating child abuse in the society.
– Rtr. Sithmi Edirisinghe
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