By Peter Emeraghi
Approximately six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence or another. In fact, 50 per cent of children who experience physical, sexual or emotional violence go through the same incident on multiple occasions, a recent study has disclosed.
A child breaks a plate at home, he gets a slap; he drops a bowl of water, he gets a beating; he accidentally spoils the TV remote, he gets a smack on the face. At what stage should parents understand that this physical mechanism should be checked? And what roles should other stakeholders play in ending violence against children?
The foregoing has given birth to an aggressive campaign to end violence against children in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) before 2030.
The campaign, which targets 500,000 vulnerable children and 125,000 caregivers, is being driven by Sustainable Mechanisms for Improving Livelihood and Household Empowerment (SMILE), in partnership with USAID, ActionAid and UNICEF, working closely with some federal government agencies.
At a sensitisation programme in Gwarimpa, Abuja, recently, representative of SMILE, Mary Ann, explained that the campaign was aimed at strengthening institutional and technical capacity of state and local government authorities to provide and manage integrated, comprehensive care for vulnerable children in the FCT and four other states, Nasarawa, Edo, Benue and Kogi.
She announced that several strategies developed in partnership with the federal government to end child violence would be sustained even beyond 2030 by addressing multiple levels of influence from children, households, communities to government.
An official of the Social Development Secretariat of the FCTA, Mr. Adeyemi Ajayi, bemoaned that even with its status as the nation’s capital, a large number of children in Abuja still suffer one form of violence or another.
Citing a national survey conducted in 2014, Ajayi said: “The idea behind this campaign is to pass a message across and implement a policy to end violence on children in the FCT.”
For the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), all hands must be on deck to arrest the growing monster that is bolstered by trafficking in children.
NAPTIP disclosed that it had so far secured about 300 convictions across the country, which ranged from trafficking, violation and molestation of children.
Speaking on the role of the media in ending violence against children in the society, Mr. Adekoye Vincent urged the press to make sure that more offenders were exposed and punished.
Between spanking and spoiling the child
Raising children these days might be one of the hardest aspects of parenting, as many parents still do not know where to draw the line between correcting a child and causing violence to that child.
It is a norm in the Nigerian system of upbringing that physical contact must be made; even the Holy Bible says you spare the rod and you spoil the child. But the rod in the context is very much relative. Experts believe that there are different measures that can be taken to correct any child’s bad ways, a little spanking, words of correction and, in most African homes, the honourable rod in context.
A civil servant, Mrs. Eno Dickson, told Daily Sun that parents should not stop disciplining erring children but tasked them to know when correction could degenerate to abuse or violence: “Violence leads to more violence; it’s time to take action and understand that correction should be separated from violence, whether sexual, physical or emotional. Children are very vulnerable creatures, and adults, which includes parents, relatives, teachers or church workers, should try as much as possible to handle them with care.
“Some might say that if a child is not spanked a little, he might go wayward but, at the same time, showing calmness and gently telling the child the wrongs he has committed is also a much underrated mechanism parents overlook these days.”
Promoter of a child-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Iykon Global Foundation for Child Care and Human Rights Defence, Chief Ikechukwu Nwonu, averred that the implementation of the Child Rights Act and the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, beginning with the domestication of the laws in all the states, would bring an end to the issue.
Nwonu, whose NGO is focusing on reclamation and rehabilitation of street children, called on the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to provide a clear-cut policy direction and ensure adequate implementation of existing policies like the Child Rights Act (2003), National Priority Agenda (2013-2030) and the National Response on Violence Against Children (2015).
He also enjoined non-state actors not to relent in their campaign to protect children from all manner of violence and deprivation, especially the increasing rate of sexual violence.
He stated that: “One out of every four girls and one out of 10 boys experience sexual violence almost every day of their lives.
“Parents should stop the physical, emotional and sexual torture of children. Children deserve to be shown unconditional love and attention while correcting the wrongs they have done.”