Onyeka Onwenu seeks better deal for African child



A LOT more could still be done to better the lives of children across Africa, even though there has been some level of improvement over the years, the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mrs. Onyeka Onwenu, has said.

She noted that Nigerian children have moved up some level where they could contribute to the happenings around them, as against the past when children were only seen and not heard.

Speaking at the African Child Day celebration in Abuja, Onwenu insisted that governments across the continent needed to put in place workable policies targeted at children, and equally earn the trust of children concerning their future.

“We are not doing well yet but we have improved, at least children can talk now more than before. I have conversation with my children on a wide spectrum of issues than my mother had with me,” she said.

“Children were not supposed to comment on political matters, they were not supposed to comment on serious matters when the family was having a discussion. I happened to be the last child and knew I was definitely suppressed.

“They assumed you don’t know anything and then tried to make you keep quite even when you had something to contribute. I don’t do that to my children, so, to some extent communication has improved in the sense that children can have conversation with parents and be heard.”

However, she observed that in many families where there is poverty, the children feel it most, adding: “You have more children on the streets hawking out of necessity, not because it is child abuse or that their parents don’t love them, but because the family cannot really survive without that little income the child raises.

“Of course, being on the street exposes the child to so many ill treatments, like sexual harassment and abuse, and maltreatment, like the child being taken out of school.”

According to her, the protection of children is not negotiable because they are vulnerable, helpless and cannot do anything to protect themselves, especially now that they are being exposed to conflicts and crisis in their individual countries.

“We have more eras of conflicts in Africa now than we had perhaps 50 years ago, and that means that children are affected, they are killed, made to be suicide bombers, and are more or less forced to take active roles in the conflicts.

“Their homes are burnt down, and they become refugees in their own country or outside it. Usually, in a war or conflict situation, it is the children and women that are mostly affected, so in many ways we have moved forward and also backward in many others.”

Nevertheless, she urged the government to improve the lots of children to give them a sense of belonging and make them proud citizens who are willing to carry on with the legacy of the present generation.

However, the onus lies with every strata of the society to contribute whatever to improve the standard of the children, she added.

“For that reason, the African Child Day affords us the opportunity to sit down and talk about it and we are making governments in the continents and the society in general mindful that we owe the future generation of the whole continent an assurance that their destiny is not destroyed.

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