My wife, Elorm, and I married in the hallowed year of the pandemic. September it was. Thankfully, this year will be our third anniversary. I can remember the marriage ceremony so vividly as though it happened only yesterday. On that fateful Friday, flanked by our parents and siblings, we went to Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) in the heart of Accra for a court signing ceremony. The next day, we continued our traditional ceremony with about 30 guests. Coincidentally, that had always been the dream wedding of both of us ─ an intimate gathering of a few family members and friends.
In August of the following year, we welcomed our adorable son, Animuonyam, on the tenth day. On that hot afternoon, I was in the labor ward all through the process to witness how a new life was ushered into this land of the living. What a mindset-changing experience it was! As first-time parents, I cannot imagine the weight of joy that filled our hearts on that fateful day. We were privileged to be parents and we did not want to take that privilege for granted at all.
When his first birthday was approaching, we thought of a gift that would last him a lifetime. Like most parents, the first birthday of our first child meant a lot to us. However, we did not want to end up like many parents who eventually enjoy the goodies of such memorable days more than their children. This sent us on a frantic search for the perfect for a child’s first birthday.
The Perfect Gift
As a couple, we used to spend a chunk of our family time watching true crime documentary series on Netflix. Such content brought us an inch closer to the volume of wickedness people could carry in that little heart in their chest. Some serial killers perceived killing as a game while some psychopaths could just not find a reason for slaughtering their fellow humans.
Watching such content over a period, one characteristic kept running through all the stories even though they happened in different parts of the world ─ most of the abusers were victims of abuse when they were children! It became almost certain that every serial killer or psychopath was coming from a broken home (or home) where abuse (emotional, physical, sexual, etc.) and neglect were rife.
Eureka! This birthed the concept of the perfect gift for Animuonyam and every child out there. If we could correct the anomaly of abuse right from childhood, a lot of criminal cases will naturally die out in the future. If we could shape our society with children’s books that could shape their minds and protect them from abuse of any sort, the tendency of them growing up to be misfits would almost not exist.
The perfect gift was to make Animuonyam a better human when he starts reading. If we threw a party for him, the food would be forgotten in a few hours. Writing a book for him, on the other hand, will become a legacy that will transform not only his life but those of other kids. This became a promise we made to not only him but all other children in this world.
Repairing a broken society of adults begins with fixing whatever threatens the morality of our children. Children have a pure heart. Their minds are like a clean whiteboard. Whatever is written on such may stay forever. Is it not a wonder how an innocent child who knows nothing about rape becomes a notorious rapist when they become adults? Along their journey, something stole their innocence. The purity of their mindset was stained by some experiences they had. Every society should be intentional about getting it right with their children. Fixing society, at least, begins with fixing today those who will be adults tomorrow.
Animuonyam at 1 ─ Animuonyam The Bully Stopper
On his first birthday, we tackled a canker that was keeping many children away from school ─ bullying. Bullying does not only happen among children. It happens even among teenagers and adults. It happens in our schools, corporate offices, and even churches (in the name of God). Many children are not able to voice out such abuse because they come face-to-face with these abusers almost every day. Parents may notice traces of abuse by observing how their children speak ill of such friends. The focus of Animuonyam The Bully Stopper was to empower children to report their abusers and fight for the abused.
Every child should be able to report to, at least, their parents if other children are bullying them. Our homes should be the comfort zone of our children. Every parent, thus, should question (and probably review) their style of parenting if their child bottles up any sort of abuse that is meted out to them.
Animuonyam at 2 ─ Animuonyam and The Queer Man
Sexual abuse is one of the abominable topics in our society yet it wrecks people the most. Many parents would be shocked to the marrow if their beloved children so-perceived opened up to them about their own experience of sexual abuse. Many victims, unfortunately, would rather not report because they would in turn be blamed. And this is how society keeps perpetrators of such crimes in business!
According to The Advocacy Center, 1 out of 3 girls (and 1 out of 5 boys) are sexually abused before age 18. It is also a well-known fact that sexually abused children often end up as promiscuous adults. Also, some survivors daily have suicidal thoughts. According to ScienceDirect, sexually abused children tend to abuse drugs in the future and many of such have low self-esteem.
We often see the fruits of all these forms of abuse. A society that is bent on cutting these fruits should first kill the seeds. As a couple, we hope our illustration books transform our children to be the adults we hope to see them be in the future.
As our son turns 2 this August, we launch Animuonyam and The Queer Man for him and every other child. This is not just a book but an anti-child sexual abuse campaign. The launch is happening on 12 th August 2023 at Bethel Baptist Church in Dansoman and on 19 th August 2023 at Central Assemblies of God in Takoradi. Both are scheduled to happen between 3 pm and 5 pm. Hotline is 0546098082.
By Kobina Ansah