Violence Against Children… promoters advocate better coverage
ON a daily basis, Nigerian children are being exposed to diverse forms of violence and an infinitesimal portion of these ever filter to the public glare.
It is now common to hear of fathers having canal knowledge of their baby daughters, some as small as two year old, kids are being molested by their parents’ domestic servants while some die hard devil mistress of the home inflicts wounds that most times resulted in permanent disability on their house maids all in the name of correcting their mistakes.
Parents too had been found to have done same just because they want to punish their wards for their wrong doings. Bread winners of home had been found to have molested their innocent house maids while schools bullies are not left out in the intimidation of their peers.
Children who are allowed to hawk have different tales of their encounters in the hands of prospective customers who lure them into having illicit sexual escapades with them.
The list is endless. Except for very few of these cases that are brought to the open maybe by intervention of some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as a result of some clandestine distress call from a concern neighbour or maybe providence was just in favour of the abused child and the incident got blown open, millions of children in Nigeria are suffering silently in the hands of their molesters and the painful thing is they do not know whom to talk to or how to get delivered from their captors, who most of the time, threaten them that something bad will happen to them should they tell their tales of horror to anyone – and so the abuse and molestation continue unabated.
Therefore, in order to fight the menace of violence against children in Nigeria and achieve a remarkable fit within a year, the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) felt that the involvement of the media can not be jettisoned.
They opined that given the kind of media hype in the initial days of HIV/AIDS and the impact the campaign against the disease and even the most recent Ebola disease virus had on the citizens including little children, the position of the media cannot be relegated to the background in the fight against violence against children.
At a workshop designed to engage the media and get its commitment to achieve eradication of violence against children within a year in Nigeria held in Akwanga, Nassarawa State recently, stakeholders from the federal ministry of information, the federal ministry of women affairs and social development, the national population commission, the UNICEF, CDC all unanimously agreed that the issue of violence against children in Nigeria has over the years been under reported and if anything positive must be achieved in its eradication, then the media must be ready and willing to up its ante to fight perpetrators to a standstill.
It is in view of this that UNICEF Child Protection Specialist; Sharon Oladiji explained that the media should join hands with other stakeholders to ensure that an average Nigeria child enjoys his/her growing years devoid of any incident that could mar the future of such child.
She said the place of the media can not be overlooked if other stakeholders desire positive result from all their inputs. Setting the tone of the workshop, she said the objective is to ensure that the media present coverage of issues of VAC from a most child friendly angle, investigate cases of VAC to ensure that affected children receive justice and are appropriately rehabilitated, reporting cases of VAC with empathy, refraining from sensational cases and reportage, ensuring accountability of policy makers on issues of protecting VAC, consciously drawing attention of affected children to where they can seek for help and ensure that children remain anonymous even when pushed by the media.
She said since the media has the power to shape and influence the minds and opinions of the public, it is imperative for them to begin a aggressive campaign against VAC in their reportage for an enviable result to be achieved under the specified period.
Citing the kind of aggression the media employed during the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Oladiji said the same feat can be achieved with the VAC campaign only if the media is passionate about confronting the scourge.
She explained that violence against children goes beyond few cases of reported rape but involves parent’s use of abusive words on children, parents not knowing how to draw the line between corporal punishment and correction, child labour, denial of children to be educated, and child trafficking among others.
She said there are some countries whose media can not write anything on violence against children simply because such does not exist with them.
She said hope would be rekindled for Nigeria to be able to achieve the same success story only if the media can take up the challenge and fight the scourge with all its resources.
A discussion on the perspective of violence against children led by Olalekan Ajia, communication and development specialist, UNICEF, brought to the fore some clear distinction between correction and punishment, both physical and verbal.
Much as Ajia insisted that children should be corrected by parents and guardian when they err, he said care must be taken not to abuse the child physically and mentally adding that these are tortures that could either mar the future of children or make them out rightly hardened and defiant.
He said parents should endeavour to spend time with their wards and prioritize the welfare of their children as their number one business rather than running after work and money while they leave children the whole day to the mercy of house maids and gate men.
He added that consistent healthy communication between parents and their children is key and very important to giving children a direction in life.
Speaking on the topic ‘Reporting Violence Against Children, Ethics and Practices’, UNICEF External Relations Officer, Geoffrey Njoku urged participants to be mindful of how children who had suffered violence are being reported.
He said it is imperative for journalists to get parental consent before interviewing, photographing and using names and voices of such children. He added that such report should be done with empathy and devoid of dramatic expressions.
Participants at the workshop called on state governments that are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act to do so without any further delay and those who had domesticated it should ensure full implementation.
Policy makers at all levels were enjoined to formulate policies that would guarantee the future of Nigerian children as they are the future of the nation.