Girls who hail from a community where the girl child is traditionally undervalued and disadvantaged, make the strongest child rights champions. Escaped from a context of abuse and exploitation, they become role models for other girls growing up in similar circumstances. Meet Jesca Edung Lomongin, who is spearheading our project to eliminate child sexual exploitation in Turkana, Kenya.
Jesca is a trusted face for many children in Turkana. She used to go out on the streets at night in outreaches, to get to know the exploited children who spent the night outside in the dark. Tirelessly she would make personal contact with girls who engaged in transactional sex or who were on the verge of doing so for reasons of survival. Night after night she would build a relationship of trust with them, as the basis for getting them off the street. “They all called me Mum.”
From the street outreach, Jesca moved into her current role of overseeing all our work to stop child sexual exploitation in Turkana. Not only is she the trust person for the girls who with our support step out of the sexual exploitation, she also engages with other key players in this problem. She empowers families with positive parenting skills and helps change their perspective and approach towards actively supporting their children and being involved in their lives. In addition, she works with authorities, the private sector and law enforcers to ensure child friendly policies for children withdrawn from exploitative environments are in place.
Jesca was born and raised in Turkana and, like the children on the street, has a turbulent background. She never got to know her father even though her family knew who he was. Her relatives did not want to disclose for fear of losing her. Her mother died when she was only 12 years old. Jesca, who was in standard 6, was left with her younger brother under the care of her maternal grandmother and uncles. Her younger brother fled, 9 years old at that time. "He told me that these people would never take as good care of us as our mother, and that he would rather go begging and sleep on the street." Jesca soon found out that her family was in the process of marrying her off to the 50-year-old neighbour as his second wife. With the help of her Catholic priests, she fled and went into hiding the day before her planned wedding.
That day, Jesca made a commitment to dedicate her life to protecting children in similar circumstances. The priests supported her in completing her primary and secondary education. “Because someone was there for me at the time, I was saved from child marriage. Now I want to be that person for those kids out there who don't have anyone else to care about them. Because after rehabilitation and education, these children can also make a difference in their own future and that of their community.”