In spite of existing laws upholding the rights of the child in Nigeria, there is hardly a day a gone by without the news of a child being violated by persons they trust or meant to protect them.
A UNICEF report paints a dire picture of the situation. Six out of ten children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with half experiencing physical violence, the reports said.
“Such report is an indictment on us as a people,” said Nkemakonam Ijeh, the founder of StopS-CAN Organization, a not-for-profit organisation which campaigns against child exploitation and abuse.
The organisation is planning a series of awareness programmes on child sexual abuse, first of which will involve a walk on 22nd April 2017, tagged “It Takes a Village”. The take off point is Freedom Park on Broad Street, Lagos Island. A conference on the subject is slated to be held on April 28.
“It is important for us as a collective and as individuals to see to the protection of our children not only because they are our children but also because violating them in body and mind portends danger for their future and that of Nigeria,” Ijeh added.
“Section 24 of the The Child Rights Act provides for the punishment of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse but in the real sense of it, do these sections hold water,” she queried.
She said through StopS-CAN, she aimed to collaborate with different stakeholders to ensure homegrown solutions to the malaise are created.
Stop S-CAN, she said would be also focusing on the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by providing them with a holistic care when going through their healing journey.
She noted that Stop S-Scan has programmes through which referrals are made to the appropriate agencies saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the law against perpetrators of child abuse as well as centres for the child’s healing process.
“Our vision is to create a world where no child suffers the damaging effects of child sexual abuse,” she said.
“Our mission is to curb child sexual abuse in Africa through campaigning, collaboration, and advocacy. Stop S-CAN, strongly believe that the future of every Nigerian Child matters. We want to give each child in Nigeria the opportunity to grow and nurture in a safe environment that is free from sexual abuse because of this, we believe, is the key to ensuring a great future ahead of them.
“We are creating a system that will inform and educate young people about child sexual abuse and ensure that they have a less turbulent transition into adulthood.
“For the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, what our program aim to achieve is to turn their adversities into a springboard for success and nation-building as we encourage them to heal. We have a definitive monitoring system that will measure our programs impact on the society as accurately as possible.”
Ijeh emphasised the need for adults to train children on how to speak up if and when they are being molested especially by the people who they trust.
“Adults must take the primary responsibility for preventing child sexual abuse by addressing any concerning or questionable behaviour which may pose a risk to a child’s safety,” Ijeh said.
“Most sexual abusers know the child they abuse, and they may be family friends, neighbours or babysitters etc. About one-third of abusers are related to the child. If you think a child may have been abused, it’s important to report it.”