World Children’s Day, is an important celebration, especially as it brings world attention to focus on the needs, ideas, and demands of young children.
This day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and subsequently, became celebrated every 20th of November to promote international togetherness, awareness, and improve children’s welfare worldwide.
In the 2021 theme, “A better Future for Every Child”, children and young people are raising their voices on the issues that matter to their generation and calling for adults to create a better future.
All children have rights that are specific to them as children, enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Therefore, there is a need for these rights to be respected, protected, and fulfilled, more especially during times of crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted children’s rights, including their right to be heard, giving room for a lot of sexual violations and increased violence. Even before the pandemic, 258 million children and young people were out of school.
Violence against children occur in homes, families, schools, communities, and other places, sadly, these are places children should feel safe. Atrocities perpetrated on children include rape, child defilement, child abuse, severe acute malnutrition and infections, migration, kidnapping, sex slavery, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
In Nigeria, children face all forms of abuse which is a daily reality and only a fraction ever receive help. “Six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence – one in four girls and 10 percent of boys have been victims of sexual violence. Of the children who reported violence, fewer than five out of 100 received any form of support. The drivers of violence against children (VAC) are rooted in social norms, including around the use of violent discipline, violence against women and community beliefs about witchcraft, all of which increase children’s vulnerability”, according to UNICEF.
UNICEF also states that Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, most of them from poor and rural communities. While data suggests a decline of 9 percent in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003, and a projected further decrease of 6 percent by 2030, Nigeria’s rapid population growth means that the number of child brides will in fact increase by more than one million by 2030 and double by 2050.
Similarly in Imo state, information obtained by the Vanguard Newspaper of July 11, 2021, revealed that the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Vulnerable Group had reunited about 15 missing children with their families, in addition to 30 child abuse cases, ranging from defilement, rape, and child abuse. Imo has also been reported by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP to have high prevalence of human trafficking especially minors!
We must ensure that children’s voices are heard, and they have the space to take action, this will serve as a foundation for achieving progress in wider child protection areas and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.
We, therefore, call on the government to urgently,
- Implement all components of child protection law in Imo state
- Strengthen institutions in the state to take issues of children seriously
- Invest in services that give young children, especially, survivors of violence best start in life
- State government establish multi-sectoral child-friendly response and referral mechanisms to support victims of violence in schools and rural areas
- Schools to collect disaggregated data on incidences of violence safely and ethically to support targeted and quality interventions