American-Palestinian supermodel Gigi Hadid visited a support shelter for women and girls who have been victims of abuse in Senegal on Monday.
The 24-year-old documented her work with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Dakar on social media.
Today we also visited a Maternal and Child Health Post in Bagadadji. This is one of 29 posts, there is one “Center” in Kolda and 5 health “huts” to support the 72 surrounding villages. These posts work mostly on child birth registration, vaccination, disease prevention, protection, free medical consultation for children under 5 y/o, and community sensitization on hygiene- all supported by UNICEF. This specific post was created in 1981 and serves a population of 16,208. There are 10 community workers that, among many other services, provide curative care for Malaria, and, if not given in-clinic, go house-to-house to deliver this lifesaving treatment. Women are usually brought to the post by their local health worker (trained 10-15 days in basic health, hygiene, pregnancy, immunization, etc.), and are assisted in the delivery of their child as well as pre and post-natal consultation. During their first prenatal consult, they are educated on the importance of registering their child’s birth; without it, a child can not get their citizenship, identification card, and cannot be accepted into the education system. Culturally, children here are named when they are 7 days old, so their first post-natal consultation happens on day 9, and that is when the mother, who brings identification of herself and the child’s father (health workers will assist in making sure there is another person accountable for the child if the father is not willing), will be given the final booklet of their child’s recorded information as well as educational material on child-care. They are then escorted to the nearby Civil Registry Office, where they receive the official Birth Certificate with the mayor. Lack of Civil Registration is one of the biggest issues faced here. About 1 of 4 children in Senegal are not registered, mostly due to lack of knowledge about it. We met with the local mayor (pictured above with record books dating back to the 80’s) who told us that, before UNICEF’s support of this program, only 25-30% of the children born in this village were registered at birth; now, almost 100% of them have the legal birth rights they deserve, and are being delivered at the .... (cont. ↓)
“After being raped and/or impregnated from a sexual attack, it is common that these girls are shunned from their families and kicked out of their homes. Some women travel from very rural parts of the country, some even coming from other countries (one girl we met today is from Libya),” she wrote on Instagram.
Today we visited a @UNICEF supported shelter, for women and girl victims of abuse, in Dakar. After being raped and/or impregnated from a sexual attack, it is common that these girls are shunned from their families and kicked out of their homes. Some women travel from very rural parts of the country, some even coming from other countries (one girl we met today is from Libya). After traveling sometimes to many cities trying to find their ground, most girls learn about this home through word-of-mouth; no one will be turned down and they will be supported physically, emotionally, and psychologically here. Employees and volunteers of the shelter, lead by the founder Mona Chasserio and her colleague Danielle Hueges, shown in the photos, encourage the girls to share and find community through their hardship. They are taught to find the positive in their motherhood and relationship with their child, to love and care for them properly, and to nurture their passions, whether it be garment making, agriculture, sports, etc. and learn a skill set that will help them be able to enter the workplace upon their departure from the shelter. Not only have about 250 children been born in this shelter in the last 10 years (15 births have taken place between October and November of this year, and the youngest mother being only ten years old), but there are also orphans who are brought to this shelter by Senegal’s Ministry of Justice. Mothers and their children will stay at the shelter until it is agreed upon by themselves and the leaders that they have the confidence, strength, and skills they need to re-enter their communities, and orphans will stay til about 8 years old, when they are permitted by the government to enter a nursing home to be adopted. Their greatest tool is one called “Rapid Protection,” which is a 24/7 SMS system put in place by UNICEF that enables community members trained in child protection and this specific system (1,222 at this time to cover the 1.5 million people in this region) to be informants of abuse (physical, sexual, neglect, etc.) in their area. As soon as these cases have been reported through SMS, with the age and sex of the victim... (cont ↓)
She shared a video and several images of girls and women at the camp, detailing the conditions they live in and UNICEF’s work in the area. “Employees and volunteers of the shelter … encourage the girls to share and find community through their hardship,” she wrote.
Our first stops this morning were to two UNICEF supported schools, one “urban” pre-school in Kolda and one village elementary school outside the city. The most impactful support from UNICEF for these schools is the teacher training and provided educational materials like “School-in-a-Box” (pictured). For the elementary schools in the villages, there are less kids and not enough teachers, so training includes teachers learning to handle dual-grade classes while still maintaining quality education. Previously, pre-school was something that only high-income families had access to. Studies show that children here who start at this level are more likely to go further with their schooling, but only 17% of children here have access to and attend a pre-school. As well early development education, French is introduced to their local dialect in pre-school, so they are up to date linguistically and more developed mentally and educationally when they enter elementary school. Because this prevents early school-dropouts and significantly improves learning outcome, it is important that community leaders spread awareness of where pre-schools are accessible (regardless of the families’ economic status), and educating parents on the importance of putting their child in school early; UNICEF is supporting rural communities in setting up their own local pre-schools and encouraging district education government in setting up pre-schools within elementary schools that already exist. The Education Chief’s main goal is equity and quality of education for these children. In the village elementary school, three classrooms accommodate about 180 children; this is where we were explained the major need for UNICEF funded teacher dual-grade training. At this time, 110 teachers have been trained (leaders say they are planning on training 180 more) in the surrounding areas of Kolda so that it is possible for the 286 multi-grade classes to function and educate as many children as possible.
UNICEF has set up a tool called “Rapid Protection,” which is a messaging system that enables community members trained in child protection to be informants of abuse in their area, Hadid said.
The cause of the refugees is one that is close to Hadid’s heart. Her father, Mohamed Hadid, came to the US as a refugee before he became a billionaire real estate developer. Last year, she visited the Jamtoli refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where she met with Rohingya refugee children.
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