“Child sexual abuse is a delicate topic and it has not been adequately addressed in Africa, consequently there is a lack of tools and resources supporting the safety of the African child within the African context.” Words on marble by Kadija Naima Toure.
The Founder of Le ProjetEcoute is on a mission to equip African children, their families/care givers and societies at large with the knowledge and tools to prevent sexual violence against children, thereby raising awareness to its extent.
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KA: Kindly share with us an in-depth expose ‘about the vision and mission of Le ProjetEcoute.
Le ProjetEcoute is a not for profit organization with the mission to equip African children, their families/care givers and societies at large with the knowledge and tools to prevent sexual violence against children, thereby raising awareness of its extent.
KA: What inspired you to embark on this project and in Guinea, West Africa?
I grew up in Guinea and I was always interested to make a change that involved improving the lives of the less fortunate. But my ideas of Change were grand and unfocused; the only thing that was clear in my mind was that it had to be brought back to Africa. I wanted to make an impact in women and girls’ rights, health, education, and other socio-economic issues. I even contemplated tackling Self-Esteem issues in young African women.
Soon after my 21st birthday I had a conversation with my father about my dreams and aspirations, and his advice to me was that: “I had to pick my battles, I could do it all but only if I took one step at the time.” This was the eye-opener and push that led me to my first step towards “Le ProjetEcoute.”
The second step was a conversation I had with a group of friends and one of us mentioned that she had recently heard of a case of child sexual abuse in Guinea, this particular story led to many more that night, each one as horrific as the previous but all on the very same topic of child sexual violence. I was utterly disgusted; I thought “this is THE battle for me.”
Also, looking back at it I can say that Le ProjetEcoute is a natural product of my upbringing. Kamsar, the city I grew up in, being a very small town and all, my mother in addition to being a doctor was also the high school counselor (outside of high school) so I have witnessed a plethora of girl talk/ lets talk about sex/lets talk about safety.
My approach with le ProjetEcoute although inspired by my mother’s “Safe Sex Talks” is NOT Sex Education”, and I often like to emphasize on this, the focus of my work is “Sex Abuse Prevention.”
KA: From idea to reality; what steps did you take to birth your dream all the ways from Minnesota USA?
I have a degree in Public Relations, which means that I have spent most of my time in College doing research and planning. With le Projet Ecoute I spent most of my time doing the very same. It was important for me to get as familiar as possible with such a delicate topic. I created a mission statement that I read back and edited often. That step made the idea of an NGO preventing child sexual abuse within the African context real in my mind. I then decided to do research on the field. I booked a ticket to Guinea and once I was back home for the first time in seven years, I wasted no time. I inquired on the topic everywhere, hospitals, police stations and a few local NGOS that focused on Gender based violence. After this I knew for certain that the issue of child sexual violence was real in Guinea and very little was/is being done about it. I went back to the United States and created a solid action plan. I also spent an incredible amount of time creating the materials (Book, Guide, dolls etc..) that children in Guinea (and other west African countries) could relate to.
KA: ‘Le Projet Ecoute’: meaning, translation and significance.
“Ecoute” means “To listen” in French and also implies “to Hear.” I aspire for the ProjetEcoute to unlock the taboos on child sexual violence in Africa and to become the solid pathway to an Africa and a world free of child sexual abuse.
KA: What were the most pertinent challenges you faced before it finally gained traction?
Le ProjetEcoute is still in start-up stage so we face challenges everyday, the biggest being that we are operating on an extremely tight budget.
But because the topic of child sexual abuse is so delicate we consider every step a victory. For instance we were on national TV last week; the 1hour platform gave us the opportunity of opening up the conversation on child sexual violence. This conversation is long overdue.
KA: Does a project like this require huge capital? How do you pay your bills, staff etc.
Yes, a project like this requires a huge capital to be perfectly implemented.
As mentioned earlier Le ProjetEcoute is still in start-up stage so I find myself wearing many different hats and handling all aspects of day to day operations from web design, grant writing to project management, ideation to launching new projects in Guinea, monitoring and evaluating, searching for donors and sponsors.
Most of our funds come from individual donations and out-of-pocket funding; fundraising has been a challenge for us so far. Our hope is to make Le ProjetEcoute an organization funded with full-time staffing and a full operating budget that will really allow us to do more.
KA: What methods and tools does Le Project Ecoute utilise in educating children about sex and sexual abuse?
Le ProjetEcoute uses an inclusive, community-based approach to heighten safety awareness focusing on knowledge, skills and responsibility but taking into account cultural realities.
The ColorMeSafe program is designed to empower children and reduce their risk for victimization. The program is part of the first phase of Le ProjetEcoute and it includes three main components: The workshops for children, the workshops for school-based staff and the workshops for adults.
Workshops for Children
Our workshops are designed to enable preschool and elementary level children to develop their “inner resources.” Children need to learn what sexual violence is and how to recognize it according to their level of understanding. Our teaching methods are innovative in coordination with the social context these children are being raised into; using techniques to help children identify potential danger. We also combine interactive lessons with age appropriate activities to help give children the tools to keep themselves safe.
** These workshops for children steer away from feelings of fear, suspicion and guilt.
The objectives of the workshops for children are:
• To inform them of their rights.
• To help them to recognize threatening and/or dangerous situations.
• To teach them how to recognize their emotions and feelings.
• To expose them to strategies that will contribute in reducing their vulnerability (self-esteem, developing a network of trust.)
• To equip them with knowledge and tools to prevent and report assaults by strangers, relatives or other youth.
KA: Are schools, youth groups etc. willing partners of Le Project Ecoute?
Yes, so far we have got a 100% willingness from schools and youth groups.
KA: Do you face any opposition from parents or guardians concerning educating their children about sexual abuse?
So far NONE, on the contrary parents and caregivers try to meet us to thank us.
KA: Prevention is always better; but in those cases where a child has suffered abuse, does your organisation offer counselling and protection to the child if it’s an ongoing abuse?
Although our focus is on prevention we are trying as we go to make children understand that abuse is never their fault, this is essential to an eventual healing process. We are also working on transforming families into competent first responders and potential support system. Trained professional counsellors are part of our long-term goals.
KA: Have you been able to partner with governmental ministries or NGO’s e.g welfare, children and women NGO’s to propagate this awareness?
We recently partnered with The Ministry of Education of Guinea. We are also currently working on creating partnerships with other ministries, many local and international institutions working with children. We are also looking for partners outside of Guinea and we also partnered with The Stella Project of Zambia.
KA: How do you measure the impact of your crusade?
For now we consider that every child taught by Le ProjetEcoute is one less victim. Research shows that offenders are less likely to target children who present a risk of telling. Teaching children personal safety strategies will therefore reduce their chances of victimization.In order to protect children from sexual abuse, it is important to understand what it is, how it happens and how to recognize behaviors that may signal a child in distress. We are also currently searching for partners that will evaluate our impact for us.
KA: What’s the climax for Le Project Ecoute? Where do you see your NGO in another five years? What kind of impact do you hope to have achieved in this time?
The climax will be to create Generational change. In five years we hope to have created a solid interactive safety education program designed for students from Kindergarten to Grade 7 that will be used in all schools across Guinea.
At le Projet Ecoute we set bold goals, last year, our first year we planned on reaching 400 children/students and we did. This year we planned on educating 1200children and we have done almost 800 so far. In five years we hope to have reached every single child and household in Guinea, not only through formal schooling but through alternative schools as well. We will create more books, and cartoons and more materials. We also hope that the program will be used outside of Guinea.
KA: Would you say child sexual abuse is on the increase or decline in Africa especially in Guinea?
In an issue where one victim is already one too many, I would say that child sexual abuse is unfortunately always to be considered on the rise.
Child sexual abuse is intertwined with issues of human rights and efforts to prevent the violation of such rights are typically focused on girls aged 15 to 19 (UNFPA 2013) which makes finding reliable statistics on sexual abuse of children of both gender 14 and under extremely hard.
KA: Certain countries still have laws that permit the marriage of minors; isn’t this child sexual abuse under legal or religious umbrellas?
Yes. It is.
KA: As always, we love to know the colour of blood that flows through the veins of outstanding Africans like you! Where was Kadija born and raised? What is her ethnicity?
I was born and raised in Guinea from Guinean parents. My father was raised in Algeria, went to college in France and got his Masters in the United States. My mother went to college in Cuba and got her PhD in France. I was lucky to be born in a family with such a global outlook on things. I am very proud of my heritage; I am actually a real life princess of the Mandingas the great granddaughter of the Almamy Samory Toure.
KA: Education? Asides from Le Project Ecoute what other pursuits occupy your time?
I finished high school in St.Cloud Minnesota and went to Art School for a Bachelor of Science (Advertising Art). I then realized that I could benefit more for a traditional degree and went back to college for a bachelor of Professional Communication (a Public Relations major and an advertising minor.) While in school for PR I took a particular interest in Corporate Social Investment.
KA: 5 life lessons you will never forget?
The time to do right is always right now”
Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Perception is a hell of a drug, you change your perception you change your life.
Be flexible, an open mind goes a long way.
Be willing to learn if you are hoping to teach.
KA: If you were President for a day or if you had a billion dollars to spare?
I’ll invest in teaching people how to make a decent living for themselves.
KA: Inspire a young African in one sentence.
“Contribute, No matter how small.” My mentor with this very sentence inspired me.
Interested in assisting Le ProjetEcoute?
Contact Kadija Naïma Touré
Founder & Executive Director | Le ProjetEcoute
Minneapolis + Guinea
U.S: +1 612-53*****| Guinea: +224-660-83-0000 |
Twitter: @leprojetecoute Instagram: Leprojetecoute