Project for the Prevention and Support of Women and Survivors of Sexual Violence

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Today is day 3 of MESAD training for prevention and support of victims/survivors of sexual violence. During the first two days, we learned how psychologists/counselors take a confidential report and we learned from the International Rescue Committee about the GBVIMS information system (Excel) which allows us to record and analyze the type and number of crimes.

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We heard from a UNFPA worker on her experiences working on GBV. Unfortunately she was fairly pejorative at times.

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Next we heard from a CI police commissioner on her experiences preventing and strategically the sensitization of communities against asexual violence, and we heard from a lawyer who explained the different methods to resolving the situation in the judicial courts.

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She arranged a short skit to show how and many survivors find it difficult to speak with the police about their experience.
I played a survivor of rape, with two other volunteers playing officers, to demonstrate the correct way to welcome and hear a survivors testimony.

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Me pictured with Commissioner Toure and actors (+Olga) below

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The lawyer, pictured above.

Lastly we heard from  to a doctor presenting the Medical support of Survivors. He focused on  the Realities of MGF presented by Dr. Fe… the slides were too graphic to upload, but the last image shows some of the tools used to cut the genitals of young women :-/

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He also spoke about the first response that hospitals take when they receive a rape victim so as to prevent unwanted pregnancy, HIV/STI(D)s and other illnesses such as tetanus… This has been an extremely powerful and empowering experience so far… Our provided lunch was pretty good too :)

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Until next time!

Témoignage des Enfants

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Here is a poster of a government sponsored program called “Children Witnesses” (Témoignage des Enfants) which provides funding for NGOs and social workers to hire professionals/psychologists that speak to children about their experiences with the recent war. The purpose of this is trifold: to provide support, an opportunity to share experiences in a non-judgmental space, and a way to ensure peace in the future. The program is spearheaded by the Commission for Dialogue, Truth, and Reconciliation.

This is the project I’ve been focusing on these past few weeks with MESAD, and I’m proud to say the progress is tangible. Many of the youth are encouraged to work and make money as soon as possible, a form of coerced labor trafficking in itself–as many travel abroad the city or even across countries to sell things in the market. Olga, regional director of Treichville district of Abidjan, was explaining to me yesterday that in Ivory Coast, much of the labor trafficking going on is perpetuated by families and relatives looking to make money off the children they cannot support financially. Mr. Konan explained last week that Europeans brought vaccinations, and though positive in terms of life expectancy, they also created a problem in many African countries in that they were administered without people being educated as to what they do. He said, though he has one healthy child, his mother still to this day worries and encourages him to have more due to the fear that the child might die. She gave birth to some 10 children, of which 3-4 survived, so for many on the older generation, the threat of infant mortality could only be assuaged with having many children. However, due to wide accessibility to vaccines at present, giving birth to many children isn’t necessary, but since many aren’t educated on the purpose of the vaccines, they do not necessarily understand that their children are safe and they don’t need to overcompensate. This leads to overpopulation and the phenomenon of street children, which is a heartbreakingly common sight in Abidjan. Many children start working at 6-7 years old, some are even kept from school so they can still things and make money.

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Next week, I’m going to Benin to meet with an NGO in Cotonou that works to gain child workers greater rights and safe place to stay…

In the mean time, the flu finally caught up with me, and the three mosques that sing and pray behind my bedroom window at all good of the night have kept me from a single decent night of sleep, so I’m definitely looking forward to a change on scenery!

Until next time!
SBT

ONG MESAD

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Since arriving in Abidjan, I’ve been working for an organization called MESAD (Mouvement pour l’éducation, la santé, et développement) which means, in English, movement for education, health, and development. Since it’s debut in 2001, they’ve been devoted to fighting against all forms of oppression especially as it relates to vulnerable youth, providing help to youth suffering physically and in morale, and improving quality of life by providing health intervention, education, and mentorship support.

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Today MESAD is present in Abidjan, Toumodi, Daoukro, Yamoussoukro, San Pédro, Aboisso, and Gagnoa. They are still expanding with hopes to eventually be a presence in every region of Ivory Coast. MESAD works at the side of communities, utilizing their preexisting structures to research problems and find solutions. Their presence is constituted of structures called CASE (Centres d’animation et d’écoute de soutien et d’écoute) each of which receives at least 500 young children per month at each site.

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MESAD’s incredible impact can be measured in the numbers of people they have been able to help..

Education:
-3399 youth taught to read and write
-7439 youth sent all the way through high school
-10000 street children interviewed, re-educated, reinstated and protected
-500000 children benefiting from the socio-educational activities

Professional Placement
-200 new young entrepreneurs and 200 youth association/clubs -2034 youth have received professional training supported and mentored
-2034 youth have received professional training
-5000 associate leaders and youth trained to strengthen their capacity and organizations

Health
-200 presentations organized to sensitize the public to STI/HIV-AIDS
-300 youth have received STI treatment
-400 juvenile prisoners have received STI kits
-10407 children have benefited from primary care and medicine
-61646 people sensitized to the fight against AIDS

Emergencies
-During the post-election crisis, 215013 people assisted in 14 regions with life saving materials including food and medicine.

MESAD has been a dynamic, and needed presence in the community, but it’s their professionalism which makes them stand out. They maintain partnerships with numerous equally reputable organizations including USAID, UNESCO, Médecins du Monde, UN, the European Commission, la Coopération Française, la Cooptation Japonais (Japan), care, Terre des Hommes Italie, France Volontaires, and more!
Here’s a photo of the volunteer celebration lunch at the home of Mr. Kouassi Konan, director of MESAD, with some French volunteers…

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I feel very fortunate to have met the staff of MESAD, not only because I am able to complete my internship requirements her, but because they are honestly some of the kindest, most caring people I’ve known. For example, the regional director of Treichville, Olga not only riding a taxi all the way to my house to make sure I didn’t get lost, but even walking me to my building and then up 4 flights of stairs literally to my door. The next day she walked me to my building again, this time teaching me the route to take the cheaper taxi (saving 1200 CFA per day) and even drawing me a map. Today I had lunch at the home of Mr. Konan with his mother and wife, Flora, Gi, Meria, and his son Philip plus a group of French volunteers. It was delicious, with a great selection of various Ivoirien dishes and a interesting conversation about why I shouldn’t fear death with a psychologist from MESAD. From Mr. Konan I learned that despite the exploitation of the African continent by European and American businesses, the continent continues to rise out of poverty and is quickly becoming the last salvageable homeland for humanity, as the people are not yet at the point of China, for example, whose environmental system in Beijing has been considered “collapsed” due to over pollution. African people still understand that nature is all we have, and must be preserved, something the rest of the world needs to learn and remember before it’s too late!

Here’s a photo with some of my coworkers at a MESAD event for recycling that hosted honorary speakers such as the minister of Environmental Affairs, Orange (phone company) representatives, and even some Royalty…

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Left to right: Aboubacar, unknown, Olga, Sesa, and Flora

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Next, a survey of health in Ivory Coast and my trip to CHU (Treichville University Hospital)…

War: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

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Yesterday I had a great conversation with Séké over foufou and sauce d’arachide and Youki Moka, I asked him whether he feared a third civil war in this nation. He first proceeded to explain the extent of the war when he was living in Abidjan in 2011 “pendant que quelques gens se battaient, dans l’autre côté de la ville, ils étaient en train de fêter.” Meaning that while some were fighting, others were partying, highlighting the limited nature of the war in this nation. He assured me that he saw no chance in war returning, noting the ongoing construction, notably a few new highway routes meant to improve traffic, as proof that the country was progressing in the right direction.

He continued, “ils ont commencé la guerre pour voler, tu ne vas rien voir les businessmen qui préfèrent prendre armes, ils sont trop occupés! Et quand les voleurs ont finis de voler, ils vont arrêter la guerre parce que il faut vendre tous qu’ils on volé.” He impressed upon me the idea that war and poverty are inextricably linked, and that when the proponents of war had finished stealing everything they wanted, they needed to stop the war in order to ensure that they could sell their loot. He remarked that business people, or employed people in general, are significantly less likely to take up arms as their duties to maintain business had greater incentives.

I want to know more about the civil war that took place in 2011, largely affecting civilians and protestors rather than security figures, as I learn more I will share… Today I am looking forward to confirming my placement as an educator in a local school, I will update as much as possible!

<3 SBT

Abidjan!!!

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I’ve been in Abidjan for a little while now, but I finally got a good internet connection at my brother-in-law’s office in Treichville. His name is Séké and he is the director of Royal Inspection International Africa, serving in Abidjan but also Takoradi and Tema, Ghana; Douala, Cameroon and Owendo, Gabon! He’s a busy guy who travels a lot, so we are really grateful that he has agreed to help SUAT complete our mission here in Côte D’Ivoire: to learn more about the realities of trafficking in this nation and develop tangible solutions based on the input of students and youth from the community.

Abidjan is a bustling city, full of life at all hours–and I do mean all hours. Due to the Ramadan season, and also the fact that we live near several mosques, my sleep has been pierced into promptly at 4 am, 5:30 am, and 7:00am due to calls to eat before sunrise and subsequent prayer times. After the imam finished, the rest of my attempts at sleeping were effectively neutralized by roosters and chickens who were determined to wake the city up. They also walk around the streets sometimes, but mostly in the slums across the bridge from downtown.

We live on the 4th floor of a neat little two bedroom apartment, and we take the stairs each time. The most interesting thing about Abidjan is the driving situation… There are actually ramps to help cars cross the sidewalk and get on the opposite street. Yes, cars drive on the sidewalk here sometimes, motorcycles are especially shameless for this. But don’t think the pedestrians are upset about their limited walking space, they have no problem walking through the main roads, especially when there’s lots of traffic. The president of France, François Hollande is visiting here soon, he’s picture side by side with the Ivorian president Allasane Ouattara on ads all across the city. People are also erecting the two flags side by side on the bridge leasing from the airport to downtown. It’s an interesting display of affection for a formerly colonizer nation, but hopefully all in good spirit. Today for lunch we had “foufou et sauce d’arachide” which is mashed plantain puffs and peanut sauce, very delicious!

I will add more photos later!! <3 Sesa