By Marta García Terán.- Joshy Cutbert was 16 years old when she discovered that training sessions were being prepared for the Network of Child and Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the city of Bluefields, where she was born and grew up. The Network is an initiative that is part of the UNICEF Nicaragua programme for adolescents.
“I went with a friend, after being told about it by the organization CEDEHCA,” Joshy recalls, thinking back to the beginning of 2014 when the Network strategy started up with five training sessions that reached a total of 150 adolescents from Bluefields and Bilwi in Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast region and from Somoto and San Lucas in the country’s northern region.
“I didn’t miss the workshops because they talked about interesting things,” says Joshy, who has only just turned 18 and is studying in her fourth year at secondary school. “I didn’t know that men gave girls and boys presents with the aim of sexually abusing them,” she says seriously, explaining the steps involved in an abuser’s strategy and confirming that during the whole process she has learned a lot about the issue, which has “had the biggest impact on me.”
“I liked learning through games,” Joshy comments, remembering the workshops on human rights, the prevention of violence and new masculinities, among others, given by the Los Cumiches Communication and Social Mobilization Association in collaboration with UNICEF. “I remember the TV series such as Loma Verde and Sexto Sentido that showed the kind of situations of violence that really happen around us,” she explains, adding that if she comes across a similar situation now she knows what to do, where to go to report it and how to help the person involved.
The strategy of the Network of Child and Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through ICTs is part of the UNICEF #ENDViolence global initiative for the elimination of violence against children initiated in 2013. This initiative seeks to generate a movement to create and strengthen alliances around child rights in which adults and institutions continue to have the main responsibility for accompanying adolescents and responding to their demands.
In the different Network training sessions, the young participants learned to use their mobile phones to generate communication products to inform their peers about the strategies used by sexual abusers, how to detect cases of violence and how to report them.
“I’d like to be able to teach these photo and video techniques to other adolescents,” Joshy says, explaining that she is now well-known in her neighbourhood because she organizes other boys and girls and talks to them about the issues she has learned about in the Network. “I’ve also addressed the subject with other boys and girls at school,” she states, adding that she uses a smart phone to take photos, connect to social networks and chat with friends, as well as sometimes talking to them about the prevention of sexual abuse.
When asked about the use of social networks, she is quite clear about what she learned: “After the workshops, I erased all of the people I didn’t know that I had as friends on Facebook and now I don’t accept people I don’t know.” Fostering the safe use of technology among teenagers was part of this initiative.
Joshy says that the process she has gone through has led her to change in certain ways. “I couldn’t talk in public before and now I can,” she explains. “I still get embarrassed in front of a microphone, but I do it.” She also mentions that thanks to being involved in the Network, in recent months she has been able to participate in other initiatives supported by UNICEF, such as the Innovation Laboratory at the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU). “I’ve had the chance to do more things thanks to being in the Network,” she states firmly. Her next steps are to finish secondary school and find a job.
“I hope there are more workshops to continue exploring in greater depth the prevention of sexual abuse and the use of communication techniques,” Joshy says. The third phase of the strategy of the Network of Child and Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through ICTs is currently in the planning stage. However, it will prioritize the implementation of communication for development strategies drawn up by the adolescents themselves, in addition to intensifying work on the production and editing of audiovisual materials for advocacy and the dissemination of information on the issue.