The story below is told by Priscillia, 12, a sixth-grade primary school student and Central African Republic refugee child from Camp Bili, in the North Ubangi Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In her own words, she tells us about her daily life as a child protection advocate.
One day, a World Vision team visited our camp in Bili. They trained me to be a sensitizer against sexual and gender-based violence. With this knowledge, I began to help my friends avoid risky behaviour that could ruin their present lives and compromise their future. Unfortunately, I found that some girls had already been abused for a long time, but they were afraid to reveal it. I asked them to report it to their parents so that they could receive proper care and so that their abusers could be prosecuted. It makes me sad to see girls my age leave school because they became pregnant after being raped. It revolts me and gives me the courage to talk about child protection in the camp. The other ordeal for the children in our camp is corporal punishment, which is parents' first recourse to discipline their children. Instead, I would ask parents to use their words to educate their children. They can explain why their action was wrong and model the right behavior for them. Children would feel respected and would be willing to confide in their parents. For example, a girl my age would be able to confide in her mother or father if she was being sexually abused instead of keeping quiet.
One day, as I was walking around the camp, I found a mother beating her son profusely. As I knew her well, I asked her, "Why do you hit your child?" To which she replied, "He stole." I asked her again: "Have you tried to understand why he did this?" She bowed her head. I took the time to give her some advice. Jacqueline proudly testified during my next visit to her tent: "Based on Priscillia's advice on child protection, I no longer torture my children, but I take all my time to dialogue with them and make them understand their fault. There is a big change. My children no longer steal". When I see such a change happening in this refugee community, it gives me the courage to continue to raise awareness so that this change affects everyone. Apart from gender-based violence, the coronavirus is stealing our childhood. For us here at the camp, this disease increases our vulnerability as we find ourselves closed in on ourselves, isolated. People don't want to come and visit us because they're afraid of being infected. We also refuse to go to our neighbours’. Our life is no longer the same, our childhood is suffocating because schools and churches are closed. As part of the fight against the coronavirus, World Vision has made us aware of the various prevention measures. As I am a child protection advocate, I’m now spreading the message to respect the rules of hygiene and social distancing to limit the spread. Several months ago, World Vision had offered my mother a piece of arable land with seeds. She grew cassava, maize, peanuts and beans. After the first harvest, she was able to buy us uniforms and other school supplies. This field is our only resource. My mother processes the tubers to make cassava bread, which she sells. She can then pay for the food that she can’t grow. In this period of the coronavirus, the importance of this field has increased. My wish is to see all the children study and have a bright future. My parents didn't study, they didn't have the means. My favorite subject is mathematics. I dream of becoming a banker so that I can help my family and all the children who are suffering in refugee camps. I thank World Vision for training me as an advocate on gender-based violence and coronavirus prevention measures. I am very proud when I see people change their behaviour based on my advice.