Liberian students join UNICEF and the Government to launch anti-rape children’s book [6 June 2014]
“Sara Let’ Speak Out” to be the centerpiece of school-based efforts to end child sexual abuse
NEW KRU TOWN, Liberia 6 June 2014 – New Kru Town came alive this morning as Liberian artists, HipCo singers, local residents and students joined UNICEF and the Government to launch Sara Let’s Speak Out, a book that shows how children themselves can help end and prevent child rape. Developed by UNICEF in collaboration with the Government of Liberia, the book is part of a series that encourages children to play positive roles in their communities. In this volume, Sara, the main character of the series, demonstrates how students can help break the silence surrounding child rape by speaking out about the abuse and supporting peer victims.
“Despite concerted efforts by the Government and partners to address child rape in Liberia, nearly all reported rapes in 2013 were of children under 18,” said Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan-Cassell. “This book shows how students can play a model role in both preventing the abuse and rallying support for child victims when prevention fails.”
Sara Let’s Speak Out tells the story of Kema, a Liberian schoolgirl who has been raped by an older man in her community, but who is reluctant to discuss the incident until her classmate, Sara, reaches out to her. With Sara’s support, Kema tells her teacher, her parents and eventually the local police about the crime. By the end of the book, the perpetrator has been arrested and the community has rallied to support Kema. The story even features Liberian HipCo artist and anti-rape crusader Takun J, who is depicted performing an anti-rape concert for the community.
In addition to conveying how students can support classmates who are victims of rape, Sara Let’s Speak Out suggests preventive measures that can be taken by children to avoid sexual violence. These measures include the use of a “buddy system” wherein students walk to and from school together and generally keep one another informed of their whereabouts and experiences. At the same time, the book underscores the importance of communities in changing people’s perspectives on rape from seeing it as a private matter to seeing it as a criminal offense.
“The continued high rates of sexual violence against children in Liberia are simply unacceptable,” said UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett. “Communities have an obligation to speak out against the abuse, and authorities have a responsibility to fully investigate all accusations.”
Following today’s launch, copies of Sara Let’s Speak Out will be sent to schools around Liberia, and teachers will be encouraged to read and discuss the book in their classrooms. The launch is the first in a series of events and products that will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months as part of an integrated initiative to end violence against children around the world. These will include six anti-rape concerts featuring Takun J and other HipCo artists, as well as the production of several anti-rape music videos by these artists – a number of whom performed at today’s event.
### About UNICEF:
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
About the Sara book series:
The Sara book series is a recent initiative by the UNICEF Liberia Country Office. The project centers on Sara, a young Liberian girl to whom all Liberian children should be able to relate. In her books, Sara acts as a positive agent of change in her community by tackling issues common to Liberia. The first book – Sara and the Plum Tree Palaver – was released earlier this year and focuses on peacebuilding, with Sara helping to resolve a land dispute. In Sara Let’s Speak Out, she supports her friend, Kema, in talking about and eventually seeking justice against an older man who raped Kema. UNICEF plans to release more Sara books in the future and, through these books, hopes to transform Sara into a role model for Liberian children nationwide.
For more information, please contact:
Adolphus Scott, Communications for Development Specialist
Tel: +231-(0)770-25-7113 (office), +231-(0)770-26-7113 (mobile)
Carolyn Kindelan, Communications Officer
Tel.: +231-(0)770-25-7110 (office), +231-(0)770-26-7110 (mobile)