Kelela Guides: Breaking The Silence Between Parents And Children

In a country like Ethiopia where speaking about sex is a taboo and sexual violence, including rape, even more, it is rare to find parents who will openly discuss both subjects with their children. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, gruesome details were coming out of kids who had had to stay home with their predators due to schools being closed. A staggering number of children were being taken to hospitals and the stories that were being told had outraged the nation. Kelela for Children, the first tool from Kelela Guides, came out a few months later with a guide that made it easier for parents to speak to their kids about sexual assault, with recommendations about how to deal with it and all the steps to be taken in order to help them overcome their physical and psychological trauma.

The guide was two years in the making before it was made available for download from their website and their telegram channel on the 20th of August 2020. According to the founder, Selam Mussie, the inspiration to draft such a guide came in 2017 in the wake of the global #METOO movement. Upon sharing the childhood sexual abuse stories of two of her friends on social media, she got a flood of replies from others who had suffered similar ordeals which made her realize that this story was the story of many Ethiopians and that most were suffering in silence. She then came together with people who had the same ideas as her to start working on the Kelela project.

During an interview with The Reporter Ethiopia, Selam Mussie was asked why she decided to work on Kelela for Children and her answer was as follows: “What I wanted to do with Kelela is break the silence, break the barrier between parents and children. I wanted to create [a] language so people can talk about these things.” This tool will help parents to approach the topic in a manner that is understandable to children and will help them in guiding their kids through this nightmare. In an interview with Addis Standard, the founder explained that “[t]he contents include measures of prevention, ways to identify the signs exhibited in children of different age groups, mechanisms on how to deal with children who suffered sexual abuse and how to handle oneself when doing so. Also there are guidelines that explain how to seek medical and legal services and what to expect from them.”

Kelela for Children is developed by volunteers which include psychologists, psychiatrists and law professionals who either aided from the very beginning of the initiative or consulted at some point. It is currently available in Amharic, Tigrinya, Afaan Oromo and English and will be translated into AF Soomali and Afar. They are currently collaborating with institutions and organizations that can help them distribute the printable copies to families in the rural parts of the country and areas where internet access is limited.