Child protection should be a responsibility that must be embraced. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that every child, whether related or unrelated enjoys absolute protection from harm in schools, churches, communities, in vehicles and any other public place. Information gathered by The Student News team indicates that Mark Nii Lomo Lomotey has been one of the very few people who have taken upon themselves to ensure children are given the needed protection they deserve. He is highly skillful and creative in the Arts industry. According to him, he took a good decision five years ago when he resolved to productively channel his artistic capabilities into puppetry to help keep children safe from sexual abuse.
He belongs to a dance group called “Obaale Dance Group” where he and his group have undertaken over 60 sessions of storytelling by way of puppetry in schools across the Greater Accra Region. To him, puppetry is most often used for entertainment because it increases the impact on its viewers for educational purposes. In recent times, puppetry is being used by mental health professionals to teach important yet sensitive topics to children.
A typical “Obaale Dance Group” child protection puppetry drama begins by telling a story, through song and dance, of a brother and sister who were both confronted with inappropriate sexual touching but both were able to get help. At times a child from the audience is invited onto the stage and asked to practise using the action and words to keep safe and get help. “Children need to learn how to use their feelings to discern unsafe situations, to speak out assertively or simply to get away, and, most importantly, to get help from a trusted adult. Children learn best with practice,” Nii Lomotey states.
“Yet practicing how to ask someone to stop touching or even telling a parent could be frightening for children who have been taught to obey and have learned to fear the adults in their lives.”
According to the puppeteer, he and his team do not want to increase fear in our children so puppets are good ways for children to practice using words of both refusing and asking for help by talking to a puppet.
Nii Lomotey’s talent is building the puppets and creating the drama. Actors use their skills to tell the story. Teachers take part in the drama and guide their students. Parents attend the drama and take the lessons home for more practice.
“In our puppetry theatre, a child learns what we term The Touching Rules, gets to understand some of the tricks of molesters and encouraged to say ‘No’ to unwanted touch and then get away to tell a trusted adult about it.
A former member of the Adjetey Sowah-led Dance Factory then based at the National Theatre, Nii Lomotey honed his puppetry and communication skills with guidance from Dr. Lois Engelbrecht of the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse in the Philippines. With her expertise in child protection and Nii Lomotey’ artistic talents, the Obaale Dance Group was formed.
Nii Lomotey, who is an accomplished drummer, choreographer and dancer, has performed in places such as Germany, Spain, Austria, Cyprus, Netherlands and Morocco.
He says it costs resources to stage the puppetry drama sessions for children and is urging support for the Obaale Dance Group to enable them keep up the work of protecting our children.