Children are gifts from God to parents to nurture, to be taught moral and how to relate in a well-behaved manners. A child grows up to distinguish between the good and the bad naturally but with the parental guidance their excesses could be controlled.
Nevertheless, during the process of putting them through and moulding their behavior, individuals should know that these little ones have their own right to certain things as they have emotions and unique intellectual ability. The decision of parents and caregivers to subject a child to a constant painful experience in the name of correction is termed abuse.
There are speculated rights of children as enacted in the Child’s Right Act 2003 by the Federal government; Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State assemblies also start it.
The Act was created to serve as a legal documentation and protection of Children rights and responsibilities in Nigeria with three primary purposes which are to incorporate the rights of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter into the national law, to provide the responsibilities of government agencies associated with the law and to integrate children-focused legislation into one comprehensive law.
It also acts as a legislation against Human trafficking since it forbids children from being “separated from their parents against their will, except where it is in the best interests of the child,”.
Despite adopting this Act, violence against children in different forms is still rampant in our society including hawking, sexual harassment, kidnapping, inflicting injuries on them in the name of punishment for an offence, among others.
According to the deputy Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Isiye Udombi , violence against children is pervasive, adding that violations of children’s rights occur in the home, school, work place and online while the perpetrators of such often include the very people children are expected to trust: parents, caregivers and other family members, friends, teachers and intimate partners.
“Violence against children marks them – often for life. Sometimes the marks are visible: bruises and broken bones. But the harm that violence causes children also effects their mental and physical health and their ability to function in the world”, says Ndombi.
Report has it that Nigeria was the first country in the West African sub-region and the ninth country in the world to conduct the Violence Against Children survey in 2014. The survey provided the first nationally representative data on the prevalence of sexual, physical, and emotional violence among children in Nigeria.
The findings, released at the end of 2015, highlighted that millions of Nigerian children are suffering violence every year and most are suffering in silence. Six out of 10 children will suffer some form of emotional, physical or sexual violence before they reach the age of 18. Many of them encounter violence over and over. Yet, less than 5% of the children that seek help, receive support.
According to Ndombi, it was a clear call for the government at all levels to act to end violence against children.
It was gathered that, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, convened an inter-agency Technical Working Group on Violence Against Children, comprising representatives from all the key ministries as well as civil society and faith based organisations, to develop a robust response plan to the findings of the survey.
It was also gathered that in September 2015, His Excellency, President Buhari launched a Year of Action to End Violence Against children and called on all Nigerians to join this battle.
He renewed his commitment in October 2016 by launching a long-term campaign, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, to End Violence Against Children by 2030.
The Presidential Campaign has been translated into a national modelling programme, spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, to strengthen child protection systems.
According to a survey, nine states have rolled out this programme – and UNICEF, through its deputy representative in Nigeria, Mdombi sees potential for other states to follow. “We are also seeing a promising increase in the number of children that have received support after having reported violations against them”. He said.
Despite this, sexual harassment is pervasive; little children are being molested sexually by male adults even it has gotten to the level of father having carnal knowledge of his daughter.
Report has it that approximately six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence, one in two children experience physical violence, one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence, while one in six girls and one in five boys are found to experience emotional violence.
Meanwhile, the governor of Ondo State Arakurin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in his 2018 Children’s Day celebration in the state said the theme of this year’s celebration “Creating safe spaces for children : Our collective responsibility ” is timely considering the increasing reported cases of threats to the security of the children in our society.
According to him, the spaces where children are found include, homes, schools, religious houses, sports venues, markets, motor parks or bus stops, noting that these places needed to be made safe for them in line with International, National, and State laws and policies on children.
He added that, apart from making these places safe for children, it is also pertinent to ensure that safety nets are readily available for them during emergencies.
Akeredolu noted that while government will continue to thrive and ensure the security of children in the state through both pre-emptive and preventive activities, the task to create safe spaces for children cannot be left for government alone as government cannot be everywhere, it is a collective responsibility.
The question now is, whose responsibility is it to end violence against our children and create safe spaces for children?
In his response to the above question, Akeredolu said, “Parents, school authorities, teachers, religious leaders, and traditional leaders, non-governmental organisations, the press, road transport workers, market men and women, and in fact government authorities at all levels have one role or the other to play in this very important task of creating safe spaces for children”.
According to a former General Manager of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Akure, Mrs Tinu Olowofela said “what we can do to mitigate this is to keep on educating our children, these girls are afraid to voice out but when we start enlightening them, they will learn to speak out “.
She therefore appealed to mothers to keep close to their children, to have keen interest in their children, and make their girl child their own friend, so that nothing will be hidden between the two of them.
Also speaking with The Hope on violence against children, the Chief Executive director of Restoration of the Dignity of Womanhood, ROTDOW, Mrs Olabisi Omolona described Child Abuse as the wicked act that devil has made rampant in our society today ,saying most of our parents have failed in taking care of our children.
It is now a responsibility of all stakeholders, parents, caregivers, government at all levels, religious bodies, school management and including our children to fight the war against Child Abuse. Our children need to be educated and enlightened right from home about this, they must be taught when to speak out without fear of threat by the perpetrators regardless of whoever is involved.
On her part, Pastor Mrs Yinka Odedele ,the Executive director of Gender Equality and Girl Child Development Foundation, stressed the need for women to ensure that Child Abuse is abated, noting that if these children are not well sensitised on what Child Abuse is, and what they can do to get if off for their development their future will be threatened.
Ondo state government had on May 2017 children day celebration announced and showed a RED CARD alert to all child abusers to stop the act of abusing children in all places or face the wrath of the law. The state government however expressed its commitment to create safe spaces for children in the state by launching Violence Against Children’s Trust Fund to provide immediate intervention for children in emergency situations; to ensure wide circulation and full implementation of the Ondo State Child’s Rights Law, 2007, and to ensure that the good health and the well-being of the children of the state are promoted.
Conclusively, “violence against children can and must be prevented. Change can only happen by tackling the issue from all angles and at all levels. This includes developing protective laws and policies, promoting services, targeting programmes at those who most need them, and raising awareness to promote social change. Everyone has a role to play”. Says Ndombi.
Meanwhile, UNICEF affirmed that Nigeria has demonstrated clear commitment to end violence against children in the country, and has therefore assured of its commitment to mobilise political wills and resources towards tackling all forms of violence against children in Nigeria.
“UNICEF remains firmly committed to end violence against children in Nigeria. We are determined to mobilize political will and resources to tackle all forms of violence against children wherever it happens. We are currently re-analyzing the 2014 VACS findings to gain an even deeper understanding of the drivers of violence against children. We are also supporting our Government partners to launch our National Plan of Action to End VAC by 2030, alongside with a national Social Norms Change Strategy. We are also supporting the Government to track and monitor reported cases”.