THE theme of this year’s Children’s Day, “Protect the Rights of the Child in the Face of Violence and Insecurity: End Child Marriage” helps to shed a much needed light on the unprecedented levels of violence against children in Nigeria in the recent past and present.
In the North East, we have witnessed, and continue to witness grave violations of children’s rights – killings, abductions, sexual violence and use in suicide bombings by Boko Haram. More than 1.2 million children have been displaced — more than half of them below the age of 5.
However, children living away from the crisis in the northeast are also at risk of violence.
The Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey (carried out by the National Population Commission, with the support of UNICEF and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), launched by Government of Nigeria in September 2015, highlighted the prevalence of sexual, physical, and emotional violence suffered by children in Nigeria. The survey estimates that half of all children in Nigeria experience physical violence, one in four girls and one in ten boys experience sexual violence and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence before they reach the age of 18 years. Less than 4% get the help they need to recover.
In response, His Excellency, President Buhari launched the Year of Action to End Violence Against Children on 15th September 2015, in conjunction with the National Priority Actions, which not only set out the key actions of national Ministries and Agencies, but also of NGOs, religious groups and the media. He called upon all States to launch their own campaigns and every Nigerian to play their part in ending violence against children.
Progress has been made. Lagos was the first State to heed the President’s call, launching their own campaign and priority actions in February 2016. Cross River will be the second in June 2016. Bayelsa State domesticated the Child Rights Act. Nine States, with funding from USAID and the European Union, have joined together to develop a model child protection system in order to translate this essential Act into reality. 12 States will hold #iMarch4Children marches today to raise societal awareness on the prevalence and impact of violence against children.
“This year’s Children’s Day offers the opportunity to highlight the significant pledges made by the Federal Government, NGOs, religious groups and the media last September to join hands to end violence against children, and call for renewed efforts by all stakeholders to turn the commitments they made into action for children”, said Jean Gough, Representative UNICEF Nigeria.
There is no better time than today to take action. Together, let’s end violence against children.
— May 2, 2016 @ 18:40 GMT