Experts canvass stakeholders’ commitment to protection of women, children from violence
As the fight against all forms of violence on women and children enters another stage, experts are convinced that concerted efforts and commitment of stakeholders will help the United Nations to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after the decade-long campaign ended in 2015.
The SDGs are aimed at actualising a universal standard of being free from grinding poverty, being educated and healthy and having ready access to clean water and sanitation, there has been one challenge or the other impeding actualisation.
At the Sustainable Development Summit held on September 25, 2015, UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 SDGs that will end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.
Experts have said that the SDGs are ambitious, but indices on ground do not show that this could be achieved owing to the under reported cases of violence against vulnerable groups on a daily basis. For instance by 2030, about 13 years from now, all manner of violence against women and children are expected to have ended. In fact, goals 5, 8 and 16 specifically want to see all forms of violence become history by 2030.
Articles 5.2 and 5.3 of goal 5 address violence against all women and girls and child marriage and female genital mutilation, article 8.7 of goal 8 is targeted at child labour including child soldiers, while articles 16.2 and 16.9 of goal 16 desire issues surrounding violence and exploitation of children and birth registration taken seriously.
It is against this backdrop that the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) launched the Violence Against Children (VAC) project and when to end it, as indicated in the SDGs document.
The agency is convinced that the status quo will remain without action and government, individuals, institutions and all stakeholders must and should contribute to the attainment of the goals.
It insisted that the kind of world it desires in 2030 would be the one that must have, “eliminated all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms, end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children and by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.”
In order to meet the target, UNICEF recommended that VAC should be made an organisation wide multi-sectoral priority, launch a multi-sectoral road map to reducing VAC and translating it to regional road maps, strengthen content specific advocacy and resource mobilisation and accelerate the role out of the systems strengthening approach to preventing and responding to VAC.
Other recommendations include, renewing the focus on preventing violence including through addressing social norms, improve the focus on gender and equity approaches, institutionalise child protection system mapping and strategically plan for follow up research and data initiative and develop and web based knowledge networking platform.
A national survey, which measures the prevalence, nature and consequences of physical, emotional and sexual violence against children conducted by the National Population Commission N-pop C) in 2014, in conjunction with UNICEF and the US Center for Disease Control revealed that there is high prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria and a girl child is more likely to experience all the three forms of violence and witnessing violence can have similar effects on children’s cognitive, behavioral and social development as experiencing violence.
Rachel Harvey, the Chief Child Protection Officer, UNICEF, explained that the government of Nigeria in 2013 published its national priority agenda on vulnerable children and in it, strong commitment was made to end violence against children, to more effectively prevent, protect and respond to all cases of physical, sexual and emotional violence.
She added that there is need for the government of the day to exhibit a strong political will towards its commitment to protection of children.Her words, “there is high prevalence of violence in Nigeria and what the findings shows is that before the age of 18, six out of 10 children suffered one or more forms of violence. One in two, that’s about half of Nigerian children suffer physical violence, one in four girls and one in 10 boys experiences sexual violence and one in six girls and one in five boys suffers emotional violence, so, the prevalence is very high in Nigeria. What the survey also found is that it is really an isolated incidence. Children rarely suffer once and not suffer again. What we found is that those who suffered violence once would suffer again and again and so over 80 per cent of children are prone to multiple incidents. It is not just physical, sexual or emotional, but two or three of them combined on children. What I think is very interesting is the fact that violence begins at young age. So when you look at it, for physical violence, we are saying that half of Nigerian children experience physical violence between the ages of six and 11. But when you look at the serious nature of the violence and then you can see that one in ten children experience physical violence before the age of five. You can see that it is a very serious statistics.”
She added, “I think the survey also opens up discussions about violence against children and knowing where to draw a line of discipline. I think this is an important line of discussion to be heard in Nigeria, and as you said, things varies from culture to culture and from communities to communities, even when you look at families to families, that line is different. I think it is really important to know is what overwhelmingly parents wants best for their children, most parent will not chose to unnecessary expose their children to any harm. And it is recognised that many children believe that physical dispense of punishment is the same as bringing them up in the right way. I think when we look at the campaign, it is not about categorisation, and it’s not about drawing an absolute line and it is not about undermining the way parents are trying to bring up their children. It is about starting a debate, it is about giving information on the impact that violence have on children, and it is about promoting positive discipline and positive communication. There are other alternative to physical discipline that could be used and so we are part and parcel of the campaign and the very heart of it is to shine a spotlight on the very serious form of physical violence children are experiencing in Nigeria and to call for an end to that violence.”
Sharon Opadiji, a child protection specialist with UNICEF, said it is the role of UN agencies to provide technical support to countries, data compilation and report writing.
Opadiji outlined the success recorded over time by the Technical Working Group convened by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in August 2014 to identify the implications of findings for Nigeria, develop a strategic approach to preventing and responding to VAC and develop National Sector Priority Responses under that strategic response.
She said though remarkable achievements have been recorded, more needed to be done. “We recognition that VACS findings has implications across a number of key sectors and that effective prevention of and response to VAC requires a multi-sector, interagency approach and requires the involvement of coordinated approach with NGOs, FBOs, religious and traditional leaders, and media cuts across multiple sectors”.
Opadiji said the Child Rights Act should be domesticated in all states of the federation, promote sensitisation and awareness of violence against children through School Based Management Committees (SBMCs), teachers, parents and the community at large; and scale up the implementation of the Early Childhood Care and Development policy and its programs in every school with full licensing and inspection, encourage victims to speak out and strengthen the judicial system to prosecute offenders.
A media consultant, Buki Ponle explained that the role of the media in the fight against all forms of violence against women and children stemmed from its social responsibility role ‘to promote universal principles of human rights, democracy, justice, equity and peace.’
He said the campaign may not see the light of the day if the media is complacent about it adding that it is time to declare a state of emergency on violence against children, spearheaded by the media, to end the age-long child torture and denial of their rights.
According to Ponle, “we should then advocate for more urgent actions, using the SMART strategy (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, time-bound) to measure our input to enhance child welfare. Use of conventional and new media outlets for responsible information and education dissemination. Empathy building, focusing on physical, emotional and sexual violence. Let’s remember our code of ethics, while reporting on children. “
“A journalist should not identify, either by name or picture, children who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, crimes and rituals or witchcraft, either as victims, witnesses or defendants’. Children have suffered enough violence, which is often carried over to adulthood. This need not be. Every human being is a child before becoming an adult, and it is not a sin, a curse or a regrettable act to be a child. S/he has the physical, mental, moral, emotional and legal right to live equitably and equally as adults. If concerted and conscious efforts are not made to make our children great, Nigeria’s future will continue to be compromised and positive changes in the country will continue to be elusive.”
UNICEF said approximately one out of 10 Nigerian children under the age of 18 years experience some forms of physical, emotional and sexual violence. It said majority of affected children never tell anyone about their experience and less than 5 per cent of children who experience violence ever receive the support they need to recover.