NGO raises concern over high rate of violence against children

NEWSBEAT – The Human Development Initiatives, a non-governmental organization, has expressed concern over the increase in violence against children (VAC) in the Nigerian society.

The Executive Director of the NGO, Mrs Olufunso Owasanoye, expressed the concern in Lagos. Owasanoye, said that accurate statistics on the prevalence of VAC was difficult to obtain as cases were vastly under reported.

“Violence against children is on the increase;  it is worrisome and of great concern that such is committed against children.” According to her, VAC is a big problem in our society because those who abuse children exploit their innocence, lack of knowledge or information about their bodies, personal boundaries and sex.

She said that absence of one or both parents and a lack of communication between parents and their children were major risk factors for VAC; adding that most parents and guardians were consumed with the struggle for how to earn a living to the detriment of giving adequate attention to their children.

The director said that one of the rights of a child was the right of protection from harm, exploitation and abuse. She, however, said that most children are absolutely denied these rights. Employment of children in jobs, paid or unpaid, deprive them of their childhood, adequate health, leisure, access to quality education which will invariably affect them physically, mentally and emotionally.

VAC can affect the psychological, emotional, sexual, mental and social domains of children’s lives, while making them susceptible to depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, low self esteem, poor academic performance, substance abuse, among others.

Owasanoye said that children are less easily manipulated and consequently violated when they have the right information through education.

“Having the foundation of self-awareness and self-protection, they are most likely to tell you if abuse has occurred.’’ she noted and therefore urged the Federal Government, civil society groups and NGOs to put in place measures to end VAC, including advocacy programmes.

Children will turn out to be damaged adults thereby creating unrest in our society without these efforts. The capacity of community members, school authorities and other caregivers must be strengthened with violence prevention programs, she stressed.

Furthermore, she urged parents and guardians to create time for their children, educate them on different forms of violence and how to prevent them. She also encouraged them to befriend their children, be sensitive to them, exhibit vigilance and be good listeners while engaging only in constructive criticism. Through these, parents can become their children’s closest confidant.