By Abayomi Elias

The joyous 2024 National Children’s day celebration as organised by Child Protection Network and partners wasn’t just to wine and dine with different categories of children and their caregivers, the event was also used to identify opportunities and challenges inherent when children speak up against the menace of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

Newsconnect gathered that families and survivors who had reported cases of sexual and gender based violence are usually maligned, attacked for no just cause in their communities and often times, this actions discourage these children and their families to speak up when an abuse is subsequently meted on them.

The 2024 National Children’s day Theme was christened Encourage Inclusion in Children. Which according to the organisers, implies there should be no discrimination of whatever form to different categories of children to access available support services.

When a child speaks against SGBV, conversation hovering around opportunities and challenges for such child emerged in an interview with Newsconnect correspondence and stakeholders at the event.

The President of African Women Lawyer Association (AWLA) Amanda Demechi Asagba in an interview with Newsconnect at the event talked about what her organisation does for survivors of SGBV and children who had been abandoned for speaking up.

In her own words, she said;

“They oppress families who have the gut to speak out. They scatter their market, some they attack their homes. They fight them for no just cause.

“AWLA steps in, we relocate that woman, the family, the child to shelters where they are properly taken care of to ensure they are able to heal from the trauma they are suffering from.

“One of the things we do for these children is that we give them the courage, we build their confidence to be able to speak. To be able to present their case in court without fear of anything.

“When Children see the judge, they are scared to talk. We are able to let them know that the Judge is just like you and I. The difference is that he just sits up there, the lawyers stands here and you stay there. They are just human beings. The judge is there to control. She has control over the court and she is the one that will give you justice.

“We are able to let the children understand this. Traumatized child stands bold and ready to talk. Many of them now even come out to stand as advocates. So many of them that have gone to school.

“However when a child reports, we are able to prosecute but what happens to that child afterwards. In a situation whereby the child fathers defile her, who pays her school fees? Who feeds that child ? Who takes care of the necessaries ?

“We are telling the state government, these children out there are our children. Any child you see on the street is our child. If you think it’s only your child you want to take care of, trust me you are in for big trouble in this country.

“The government is talking about insecurity, they haven’t seen insecurity yet. By the time you allow these children to be on the street, what happens tomorrow ?.

“These children should have access to Schooling, maintenance, Insurance and anything you can think of. They have no business regretting that they report, what is happening is that these children regret reporting.

“Am I really interested in pressing that these people go to jail when those that reported are abandoned ? When they go to jail and the children have to suffer, what have we achieved?

“So who is going to take them in ? Are we not raising monsters in the society if we leave them out there to fend for themselves?

“If we want security in this country, let’s catch them young now to take care of the Nigerian child, African child and the children of the world”. She concluded.

A Program Officer from the Lagos State Domestic Violence Agency Onyechefula Ann in an interview with our correspondence talked about the agency services and opportunities available to survivors of sexual and gender based violence.

In her words, she said;

“As you would appreciate, no matter how much you think you are doing, there is still so much people that need to be reached. You can’t take the whole world at once, you just have to keep on going, and keep on sensitising and talking about it.

“To let them know this problem exist, let them know the support services that exist. Under response, we don’t hope that anybody suffers SGBV but in the unfortunate incidents, you are not alone, our team will support you.

“The response team which comprises of the Police, the Judiciary, the ADR, the field operations, the empowerment, they make sure that they come together to know what service does this survivor need.

“These actions we have taken to tackle the issue. Every child matters and they need to be included.

“In Lagos State we have what we call trust fund. Specially designated to survivors of SGBV. So where the parent, the husband or the wife is the bread winner, and as a result the child would be affected by that incident, that trust fund takes care of the immediate need of that child.

“Maybe the child needs to move to another school or relocate to a different environment. The trust fund takes care of things like that.

“You activate the trust fund via the toll free line 08000333333. If you have been abused or you are currently being abused, and you need to take a positive move for yourself, activate the Trust fund, it is there to take care of whatever financial needs the survivor may be having”. She said

The Executive Director of Jashabel Touch -A-Heart Foundation (JTAH) Maureen Obire said
children should not be afraid to dream, they should not be afraid to explore.

“Growing up we were not given that opportunity, we are asking the ‘genzies’ the millennials to dream, we should help them to achieve their dreams and make it a reality. They should not be intimidated, speak up, speak out in any phase of challenges.

“We can’t stop talking, we can’t stop reaching out, we can stop influencing our environment as much as we can, I tell people good or bad child comes from home .

“Most parents want the teachers to do the magic but actually forgot that the foundation is actually from home. If parents do the right things, more of the children who are from good homes that can dream can positively influence the other ones to also change. We will keep talking and sensitising ourselves”. She said.

The Lagos State Coordinator
Child Protection Network (CPN) Aderonke Oyelakin said the significance of children’s day celebration is to recognize and showcase the boundless potentials within children. Also to see themselves as limitless, work towards their dreams and aspirations towards a greater heights.

In her words, she said;

“The Child Protection Network is committed to ensuring that every child is included and not left behind, their rights are protected from any form of abuse, exploitation neglect or violence and have access to quality education, healthcare, and opportunities that will empower them to achieve their dreams. We are dedicated and also imploring everyone to creating a safe, nurturing environment where they can grow, learn, and thrive.

“This celebration also gives us the opportunity to hear from our children ways we can help them to be better and support them. They tell us what is expected from us as stakeholders in ensuring their future is secured” She said.

By News Connect Online

News Connect Online is a grassroot advocacy news platform established to promote development and peace through efficient and effective reportage across all beats. Beat: Education, Entertainment Environment Energy Business Health, Sport, Foreign News, Advocacy, Tourism, Transportation

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