One of the keys identified by the Lagos state government, at ending the rising spate of child abuse, is for traditional rulers to use their positions in the community to preach against the act, believed to be prominent in rural communities.
According to a 2015 UNICEF report; six out of ten children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with half, experiencing physical violence; all being traced to culture, religious beliefs, and tradition.
HRM Afeez Badiru, the Elejigbo of Langbasa stated this while addressing school children during a child rights advocacy sensitization, which was initiated by the traditional ruler, in Langbasa, a community in Lagos.
A counsel, representing the Lagos state ministry of justice, Mrs. Kehinde Iyade, explained to children, the importance of speaking up when molested.
She, however, urged traditional rulers to imbibe the culture of enlightening parents and children in their communities because of the level of ignorance being played out.
“The massive awareness now has actually helped in reducing the figures of child molestation, unlike 10-15 years ago where children could not speak up”.
“The advocacy is very important and it is reaching plenty homes because of the statistics of reports we have had”, she added.
She added that: “we urge traditional rulers and communities to use their positions to enlighten children and parents on the rights of our children and why it must be protected”.
Speaking further, HRM Badiru, noted that more awareness can help curb the abuse, particularly in communities where there is lesser government presence.
“I have been an advocate of children knowing their rights, and that is why I always support such feat”. Series of cases at my disposal makes me believe that most children and parents do not know their rights and what it means for a child to be abused”.
“Though awareness has been massive, there are still several cases out there. So, stakeholders should endeavor to engage the parent in rural areas because they don’t know, even the victims are ignorant of the implications. We need more advocacy and enlightenment because this is how we can reduce the madness totally”, he urged.
Teachers and guardian present at the event believed that such enlightenment campaign should not be ignored and every person should play their roles adequately if the menace intends to end in the nearest future.
A teacher, Mrs. Ajifuwa Oluwasayo suggested that the advocacy should be taken seriously at home.
“Not all students know their rights; they need to be properly enlightened at all levels because as a teacher, I have had reported cases of children who serve as maids and helpers to parents, being molested, punished, and not being pampered like their own children. Even when we try to link up with their biological parents, we find it difficult”.
A guardian in the community, Mr. Waheed Kasali said that the questionable characters of parents in communities should be enough reason why communities and traditional rulers should take the campaign seriously.
“This community has some very funny behavior being exhibited by the parents and guardians and we want them to know that a lot is expected from them so that at the end of the day there will be synergy.. Some things are endemic such as sending children on errands at night, exposing them to dangers, exposing them to illegal trade, hawking and not taking care of their education. We want to curb all these in our societies so our children can be well educated and become useful to the society at large”.
“It is expected that some of the parents and teachers present will be well prepared for the challenges ahead on how to behave and relate to their children and colleagues”, he added.