Gigi Hadid is spending some time in Dakar, Senegal this week visiting a UNICEF-supported women’s shelter.
The American-Palestinian model who is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador has been documenting her trip for her nearly 51 million Insta followers, to spread awareness about the challenges survivors of abuse are facing in the region.
“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 home,” Gigi writes.
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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 ↓)
“Employees and volunteers of the shelter….encourage the girls to share and find community through their hardship,” the 24-year-old continues. “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.”
Gigi explains that about 250 children have been born in the shelter over the last 10 years, and that the youngest mother to give birth there was only ten years old.
She also stopped by two UNICEF-supported preschools in the area to learn how the organisation is working to educate as many children as possible.
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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.
This isn’t Gigi’s first time travelling with UNICEF. She travelled to Bangladesh last year to raise awareness about the 1.3 million Rohingya refugees who’ve fled horrific violence in Myanmar.