Youth Media and Communication Initiative (YMCI)
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CHILD ABUSE

Launched in 2000 by Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) for the creation of a global culture of prevention and for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the recommendations contained in the UN Study on violence against children, 710 organizations from 119 countries marked the World Day last year with activities and events

As part of activities to mark this year’s World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, YMCI will develop and launch a network of child journalists as well as media resources on child abuse in Nigeria. The media greatly influence how we understand and deal with various issues. The media holds great promise for reaching young people. Young people typically embrace the use of media technology for entertainment, learning, and communication when given access to these resources.

This, along with the fact that today’s technology, including video camcorders, digital cameras, and multi-media software such as video editing programs, are now relatively inexpensive, easily transportable, durable and more user friendly than in previous years, make youth media productions in dealing with issues like child abuse a viable initiative.

The primary activity proposed in the project involves a select group of children in four states in Nigeria who will form the core of the project. They will develop stories and materials on the different dimensions of child abuse and the impact of abuse on children. These stories and materials, including photos will be launched at a public ceremony on November 19 to mark the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse. We hope this forum will rekindle public interest in the issue of child abuse and also provide concrete strategies for overcoming stereotypical thinking about children and youth.

19 November – World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse has been endorsed by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan • Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate • Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights • Prof. Jaap E. Doek, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child • Prof. Paulo S. Pinheiro, Independent Expert for the UN Study on violence against children • Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, UN Special Rapporteur on Education • Juan Miguel Petit, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution • Conseil d’Etat et administratif de la République et du Canton de Genève in corpore, among others.

WWSF Women’s World Summit Foundation, an international, non-profit, non-confessional NGO with United Nations consultative status, serves the implementation of women's and children's rights and the UN MDGs. WWSF is member of the Conference of NGOs (CONGO), CRIN, ISPCAN, MIRA, LIMITA, the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the NGO Committee on Unicef, the Swiss Network for the rights of the child, NGO sub groups on: sexual exploitation of children; violence against children; the girl child, Kinderschutz Schweiz, Swiss Kinderlobby, among others.

UNICEF, children's parliament, govt to invest in kids (The Guardian, May 27, 2004)

From Jane Ezereonwu, Abuja

AS Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to mark the yearly Children's Day, the United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) has asked the Federal Government to give the country's kids more attention.

The event, it urged, should go beyond mere speech making and promises to concrete investments on children and the protection of their rights. 
On their part, Nigerian Children also called on the Federal Government to ensure that all schools use insecticide treated nets to reduce deaths arising from malaria. Their call was part of a communique issued recently after a session of the "children parliament" in Abuja.

The UN body, which acknowledged positive steps already taken by the government to improve the lot of the kids, also appealed to the private sector and the civil society to complement the efforts. UNICEF official in Nigeria, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, stressed that the child rights law must be faithfully implemented.

"The enactment of the bill is more than just a lip service and is shown in the government's leadership in routine immunisation, polio eradication, the acceleration of girls education and the commitment to fight child exploitation", Njoku said. On the state of Nigerian children, UNICEF further said, "the situation of Nigerian children is only slowly improving and the translation of the law into activity that really affect children's lives has been problematic, especially, in terms of the exploitation of children, the scourge of HIV/AIDS and the gender gap in education, which collectively poses continued threat to the long term development of Nigeria"

UNICEF's country representative, Dr. Ezio Murzi, however, added, "UNICEF works closely with the Nigerian government to address these issues and good progress has been made in some areas".

It called on all stakeholders to rally for the good of the country's future leaders noting "government alone cannot do it- everybody in society, private and public sectors have a responsibility to make children's rights a reality and Nigerian a better place for its future leaders".

Feeling unconcerned to problems of children is like reversing the hand of the clock of development back, Murzi further stated. "Turning a blind eye to trafficking, exploitation, ignoring the need for basic health care, the growing number of children orphaned by AIDS and leaving girls uneducated is reversing readily accomplished gains.

UNICEF said an average of 15 million children are working in Nigeria and eight million are engaged in exploitative child labour that makes them a cheep target for traffickers.

A new UNICEF report reveals that Nigerian women and children are trafficked to as many as 12 countries and Nigeria is identified as a destination and transit country, receiving women and children from as much as 10 countries.

UNICEF further noted that other Nigerian children are trafficked even internally or within the region to carry out horrendous tasks for no pay. On the state of Nigerian girls, it stated "many Nigerian girls are coerced into sexual exploitation and trafficked to European countries such as Italy and other places. Over 60 per cent of children often trafficked from Africa to Europe for sexual exploitation are Nigerians.

At the joint session of the Nigerian Children's Parliament president over by its Senate President Senator Henry Ilabiegha-Abbey and Speaker, Honourable Chinenye Nwaneri, a bill on the Mandatory use of insecticide treated nets in all boarding schools was passed into an Act to ensure a malaria free future.

The parliament also resolved that the Federal Government should:

  • ensure that there is enough awareness at all level on insecticide Treated Nets for the prevention of malaria;
  • encourage more companies to produce the treatment chemicals;
  • provide necessary infrastructure to ensure access to the insecticide Treated Nets at all levels;
  • affiliate, co-operate, synergies and network with CBOs, CSO, donors, NGOs ad the Nigerian Children's parliament to ensure proper implementation of this Act when assented to and;
  • provide infrastructure for monitoring and maintenance of the Insecticide Treated Nets.

Sexuality Education in Nigerian Schools (The Guardian editorial Feb 29, 2004)

In response to growing concern about the prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) among students, the Federal Government, through the National Council on Education has approved the introduction of sexuality and HIV/AIDS education in the nation's educational system. In introducing the programme, the Minister for Education stated that "the National Educational Research Development Council has produced a culturally sensitive and acceptable curriculum on Family Life and HIV/AIDS education".

The report further states that the programme is part of the new national curriculum for public schools, both tertiary and secondary. The objective is to educate students on sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and reproductive health. We are familiar with stories of teenagers who have lost their lives while procuring illegal abortions. The effort aimed at mass education is commendable. It is one of the obligations of government to ensure that citizens are not exposed to health dangers which could ruin or terminate lives. The current situation where teenagers lose their lives to due to wrong healthcare choices is unfortunate.

The statistics proffered on HIV/AIDS , by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are frightening. Indeed if the figures produced by the international health bodies are anything to go by, the African continent faces a pandemic. Worst hit are the youths, the fulcrum of the nation's working population. For example, in Nigeria, the rate of HIV infection is put at an alarming percentage .

There have been media campaigns to draw attention to the scourge that is HIV/AIDS. Judging by the rate of new infections, these campaigns do not seem to have deterred people from practising unsafe sex. Teenage boys and girls seem to take delight in casual sexual relationships, in the name of having fun. Also, there have been reports on the rate of unwanted pregnancies among secondary school students. Owing to the stigma attached to teenage pregnancy, most victims resort to the services of quack doctors. There is therefore the need to educate our youth on sexuality.

However, some pertinent and disturbing questions arise. Was there sufficient consultation before the policy was adopted? Is the same course going to be taught to both secondary students and university undergraduates? Is the policy sensitive to religious sentiments? For example, are Christians and Muslims comfortable with the policy? Are parents sufficiently informed about the policy? Is it possible that teenagers might choose to experiment with what they had learnt? Will there be examination on the subject? What has happened to the moral codes which governed our world?

Some have expressed opposition to sexuality education in secondary schools. Such critics argue that the very fact that teenagers are being taught facts about their sexuality could produce the opposite effect. In other words, they could, for example, decide to practice safe sex rather than abstinence which is recommended for their age. They may also become morally loose having being exposed to practical sex that may not result in pregnancy.

The other school contends that even if these children are not taught, they are likely to discover things for themselves, sometimes in a most disastrous manner. There are books, films and websites which actively promote sexuality education. The arrival of cable television has not helped matters. Some children have been caught watching movies and programmes meant for adults. Proponents of sexuality education also argue that the nation's moral education programme has not had any effect on the youth. Instead of growth, there seems to be degeneration in standards. Against this background therefore, it has been argued that we would be playing the ostrich if we ignored the issue of sexuality in our schools' curricula.

There is no gainsaying the fact that our society has witnessed a collapse in our moral values. Sexual permissiveness, as an implicit message in foreign media has helped to damage the moral fabric of our society. To restore sanity, all hands ought to be on deck. Parents, teachers, and religious leaders should endeavour to stress positive behaviour among our youth.

What this means is that parents should set good examples for their children; pastors and imams should stress the need for abstinence until marriage. Counsellors in the schools should impart the desired information bearing in mind the age bracket of their audience. Counselling rather than instruction would even be more effective in communicating the importance of safe sex. We therefore suggest the use of counsellors in the programme. Such counsellors should be mature persons who are likely to be more circumspect in handling this rather sensitive subject.

Finally, in trying to implement the policy, government should strike a balance between educating the youth through a formal programme and ensuring that the education itself does not become a source of dangerous experimentation. Parents should be more involved in the activities of their wards and children.


 



 


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