Thousands of Nigerian Muslim children under the aegies of The Young Muslims Association (TYMa) have joined the rest of the world in observing the event of the 2019 World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse on Tuesday, November 19.
The young Muslims, who stormed Alausa, Ikeja, in Lagos, for the walk in their branded t-shirts, displayed placards with different inspiring messages, calling for the prevention of child maltreatment and demand that perpetrators should be prosecuted and brought to book.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards include; you give a child alcohol, weed and drugs, you expose them to pornography and you claim not to be an abuser?; Children need to have good memories of their childhood, they make them peace loving and civil adults.
It’s one of the biggest assemblies of Muslim youths, within the ages of 4 to 14, who came with their teachers drawn from 10 states, including Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Abuja to participate in the peaceful walk and collectively call for an end to child abuse.
Muslim News findings revealed that child abuse, which now comes in different dimensions, is a global challenge.
Some of the cases include maltreatment, neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, enslavement, exploitation, child labour, sexual abuse, incest, child trafficking, target for rituals and many others.
Watch the children demonstration
The association believes that the alarming rate of these abuses is making the society unsafe for children to live in and is helping them lose focus of their academic and spiritual development.
Calls for end to child maltreatment – Coordinator
“They are losing trust in members of the society including their immediate family. I wonder what the future will be,” said the National Coordinator, Mr Owolewa Musiliu, while speaking with Muslim News as he welcomed guests to the occasion.
Mr Owolewa said the event was to commemorate the United Nations Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse slated for 19th of November annually, adding that, “but because the day was a week day (Tuesday), we decided to create awareness and advocate for enlightenment on the importance of the Day with a ‘Walk and Press conference’ today (Sunday).
According to him, The right of every child is paramount in every society. They are the future of Nations; the hope for the continuity of generations. When these fragile creatures are abused, then the future is blinking.
Mr Owolewa described children as special gifts from Allah, adding that they are jewels and pearls who deserve to be celebrated and loved by all.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Every Child deserves your protection’, the National Coordinator said, “Every child is important, that is why they must be nurtured with care and love. They must be celebrated and loved by all.”
He however noted it is disheartening that in today’s world, there are rising cases of child maltreatment, many of which call for urgent attention.
According to him, Records have shown that 95% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children. 78% of prison population were abused as children, 50% of suicidal attempts reported have been sexually abused at some time. 6 out of every 10 children experience some form of violence and only a fraction receive help or justice.
He also quoted UNICEF figures of 2019 which revealed that 1 of 4 girls and 10% of boys have been victim of sexual violence in Nigeria.
Citing some of the effects of child abuse on victims, Mr Owolewa said there could be physical injury, emotional imbalance, behavioural maladjustment, poor academic performance, low self- esteem, depression, prone to further abuse, suicide attempt and sometimes, the victim’s death.
The Young Muslim Association therefore called on everyone to go back to Allah spiritually and show love to these children.
Prophet Muhammad once said that ‘’Any adult that does not show love to the children is not part of his ummah’’ (Hadith).
Mr Owolewa also called on all Non-governmental organisation, Religious bodies, Ministries, Activists, Lawyers and others to join the rest of the world and create awareness programmes annually on November 19, which is a day set aside by the United Nations for the prevention of Child Abuse.
“To our dear parents, please, be a friend to your children especially the girls among them. Let them keep no secret from you based on your relationship. Be fixated on them and be ready to fulfil your financial, moral and spiritual responsibilities to them. Let the step-mothers and guardians show more love to children under their care. Never leave any information unattended to. It could be dangerous,” he added.
Some correctional homes violate child rights act – Alhaji Ajala
In an exclusive interview with Muslim News, the immediate past National Coordinator of the group, Alhaji Abdul Azeez Ajala called on the government to regulate and sanitise the activities of correctional centres in the country, saying that some of them molest and violate the Child Rights Act.
He said, We’ve read in the news how innocent Nigerians- both adults and children are being molested at correctional homes. These places are supposed to be rehabilitation centres where people find solution to their problems. However, evidence have emerged that many of these centres abuse their inmates.
“These correctional centres need to be regulated. We must see that there is a distinction between what we call the Madaaris (Arabic schools) and the so-called correctional centres. It is high time the government takes the lead by regulating and sanitizing these centres.
Ajala said it is one of the responsibilities of government to protect all citizens including children from being molested and victimised.
According to him, government has a bigger role to play in putting an end to child abuse. First, it must try to follow the declaration on child rights and protection and some of the policies that will protect all the children from abuse by implementing them.
“A lot of very good policies the government have done. They are in the ministries and have turned to brown papers. We must see to the implementation of some of these policies particularly issues that bother on child rights and protection.
“Government must be able to establish different institutions that will monitor cases of child abuse across the nooks and crannies of the states and nation as a whole. Again government needs to be proactive in instituting measures prosecuting the perpetrators which protects he innocent children from abuse and neglect.
He said child abuse goes beyond harassment, saying that, “when you leave your home as early as 4am and you return as late as midnight, it’s an act of neglect because you’re transferring your responsibility to your neighbours or other caregivers. Neglect is one of the examples of child abuse as defined by the United Nations.
Lagos has recorded successes in fighting child abuse – Ministry of Youth
PA Staff of the State Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development, Mr Ismail Ogunbanjo commended the young Muslims for organising the awareness about child abuse, saying, “it will make the students aware of their rights.”
Mr Ogunbanjo assured the participants that government is not relenting on its effort to curb the menace of child abuse, noting that many perpetrators have been prosecuted.
He said, “The fight against child abuse is something very crucial and there is need for a collective action to bring it to an end in the society. The government commitment in 2007 enacted the child rights law and further amended it in 2015 in order to bridge the gap in the previous law. In 2016, the Lagos state safeguarding and child protection policy was signed into law.
“All these show that government is committed to fighting it and everyday, we receive a lot of cases of child abuse and we have tried our best to come up with various devices to tackle it. And fortunately, we have been able to prosecute perpetrators. Lagos has recorded successes in fighting child abuse,” he added.
Lagos has zero tolerance for child abuse – Alhaja Jaji
Speaking with Muslim News, the Secretary to Lagos State Government, Alhaja Sherifat Folashade Jaji ably represented by Alhaja Maryam Oyesiji said the Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is passionate about child protection rights, which was enacted in 2003 and noted that Lagos has zero tolerance for child abuse.
According to her, “As part iof our efforts towards protecting the rights of the children, the Lagos State Government has created several offices. In the ministry of Justice, for instance, we have the department of child abuse.
“Also in the Ministry of women affairs and poverty alleviation, we have another section for treating the issue of child abuse. In fact a lot of offices abound in order to checkmate the issue of child abuse and trafficking.
Alhaja Jaji said to stop the rising cases of child abuse, there is need for a lot of propagation, adding that, “The Lagos State Government has done a lot in this area. We have a lot of jingles on the radio and on television addressing child trafficking and other vices related to and affecting children.
She warned against child molestation, trafficking, loitering, street trading and hawking, saying that offenders will be prosecuted.
The Secretary to Lagos State advised parents especially Muslims to take a lot of interest in their children.
She said, “We need to pay attention to our children. Often times, we leave them loitering about and at the mercy of neighbours, uncles and aunties who in most cases don’t have time for them. In fact, a lot of these abuses are perpetrated by these so-called uncles and aunties.
“It is not only the female child that are prone to abuse. Even the male children are susceptible. The so-called uncle would come and tell the girl-child, ‘I am your husband ‘. The same goes to the auntie who would tell the boy, ‘I am your wife’. Parents need to educate their children about it. They are your uncles and aunties and your parents are your parents. A lot of things has to be done.
“Tell your child to raise the alarm, tell people and encourage them that anything that happens during the course of the day should be reported to you when you return from work at night. Encourage them so that they talk to you as their friends. When you present yourself to them as friends, they will come to you as a friend and report to you whatever happened to them during the day. It could be a teacher, a neighbour and not only relatives. We leave them in the hands of caregivers and we think they are in safe hands,” she added.
Some of the participants spoke with Muslim News on the importance of the event.
Abdussalam Subair said he was excited to participate in the peaceful walk with his peers. He also called on parents and teachers to protect children from abuse.
He said it is important children are protected because they are blessings from Allah.
“We are meant to be protected and not molested,” he added.
Solate Al-Ameen, a JSS 2 student of Airforce Secondary school said the advocacy was aimed at stopping people from abusing children.
“They should control their anger when correcting students. If they are angry at home before getting to school, they should leave it at home and be friendly with students” he said.
The Young Muslims Association (TYMa) is a faith- Based Non- Governmental organisation aiming at developing children’s knowledge, skill and moral values through comprehensive and regular training within the realm of competent personnel using the Qur’an and teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).