On Challenges, Policies and What Media Practitioners can do to stem Child Rights

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By; Sekinah Lawal.

Introduction

This training workshop for Journalists on adequate and proper reportage of Girl-Child abuse and related issues is so desirable and must be a continuous It is understandable that some of us might  have gone through this training in the past, but we will all agree with me that continuous reminder will be an added advantage.

Journalists charged to accord issues on child abuse more prominence.

Ending girl-child abuse and related issues is a task for all because it is about our daughters, our wives, our sisters and the likes. More importantly,  Journalists play very vital role  as Agenda Setters, Policy Influencers and Watchdog of the society. Hence, there is the need to encourage Journalists to do more on the issue of girl child by writing and raising issues around the girl child.

With better understanding of various forms of abuse against the girl child and situation of girl child abuse in Nigeria: Data, Facts and Figure from the first presentation, we won’t bore you with details of Policy Dimensions, Issues, Challenges and Solution.

One thing very important to take note of is the fact that good policies are not our problems in this country but proper implementation of those policies is the problem.

Nigeria is signatories to many UN and international body policies but walking the talk has been an issue. We are the one to make them do the needful.

In terms of protecting the girl-child rights, Lagos State and few other states have been trying with the Child’s Right Law in place but we are not yet there. More states need to domesticate this law.

As a matter of fact, we seem to be sitting on a time-bomb with the activities of some young people calling themselves “Awawa” and all manners of names while our police seems to be “helpless”. Just yesterday in Aluminium Village, Dopemu area of Lagos, these boys were seen freely terrorising the community by using matchets to cut themselves making residents especially young girls, to be running for their lives and police station is just a few meters away. That is a matter for another day anyway.
I do not think it is proper for us as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to be praising politicians for doing what they are elected to do like commissioning of roads, schools and the likes but rather to be exposing those things left undone as well as correcting the societal ills of which abuse of girl-child is one.

Unfortunately, the way the situation is at present is nothing to write home about in terms of convenient condition for Nigerian Journalists to operate without fear or favour. Of course, great efforts must be made towards tackling many challenges facing Nigerian Media practitioners, especially those working for privately-owned media houses where they are being owed backlogs of unpaid salaries. Solving this welfare issue, having great insurance cover in place among other incentives will go a long way in assisting media professionals in being able to discharge their duties as true watchdog of the society.

However, despite these challenges, we still need to forge ahead in other for us to get the society we so justice desire where things work.

There are so many issues we should be putting on the front burner based on statistics available to us regarding  Girl Child Abuse.

Through our writings and programmes, we must encourage all stakeholders in this area; parents, lawmakers, lawyers, police and members of the community to be on same page in ending all forms of abuse. We all need to speak out. For us to have a sane society, other people’s business should now be our business. We cannot continue to remain docile while things are going wrong. I believe it is our lackadaisical attitude that has really make things work and since we are in change era now, things should truly change for better.

There should be more media reporting and visibility for girl-child abuse in Nigeria.
What the Media can do and how they would do it:

With the needed skills, facts and figure, we believe we can achieve the needed impact. The legal rights of the Nigerian child are contained in various municipal laws but these are being violated on daily basis.

Every child has right to food, clothing, shelter, education, good health and more. We can get details of all these laws easily. What we are very particular about is the actual implementation of the Laws.

Our Courts of Laws too need to be up and doing and we are to engage them as media professionals to find a way of stopping unnecessary adjournments.

Being abreast of plights of the girl child in our nation, media professionals are expected to participate fully in problem-solving efforts towards eradication of girl child abuse.

And to truly strengthen our roles of Journalists as Agenda Setters.

Amidst various reforms agenda, policies, development plans and programmes, Vision 2010, Seven-Point Agenda, MDGs and a host of others, Nigerian leaders are yet to deliver.

As Journalists, we should demand for and ensure commitment of the leadership to sufficient discipline and political will to enforce development policies and programmes especially regarding child’s rights.

These include the civil service reforms, education reforms, judicial reforms, local government reforms, integrated rural development programme among others.

As journalists, we should let our leaders know that development is about human beings – child and adult, male and female. Sustainable development is all about equity, defined as equality of opportunities for well-being. Although, conventions on child and women rights are ratified and widely talked about in Nigeria by the political leaders, commitments are lacking. National statutes are replete with provisions aimed at protecting children and women, but in reality, they are at variance with local realities and practices at the community level.

It should not be by mere touting, but by commitment to discipline and political will on the part of the leadership as vast majority of our young girls are ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-educated.

Voices must rise up for speak for the rights of the girl child and we should at the forefront in doing this as the voice for the voiceless.
Burdening social-cultural issues such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage, gender-based violence, limited access to higher education, reproductive health services among others should be dealt with in all ways.

We must keep certain issues running in the media so that governments at various levels will take them serious and girl-child matters should be part of those issues.

In our various media, we should encourage the citizens to always speak out for the girl child, in order to ensure a society free of discrimination for young women and girls. Even parents should be enlightened to speak out.

We should as media practitioners protect the girl child against abortion, female genital, mutilation, demeaning labour, prostitution‎, rape, early marriage, early pregnancy among others. ‎ Also, we should be canvassing for poverty reduction at all levels because if families are okay economically, what will make parents send their children out as house-help in other peoples’ homes.?

And even as parents and mothers especially, we must let them value the idea of spending quality time with their children.

We must be able to follow up on many cases in courts and ensure that justice is done at the shortest possible time.
We can do many award-winning stories on issues of  child-trafficking and other child abuse matters.

Hajia Sekinah Lawal is the Chairperson, Association of Women Journalists, NAWOJ, Lagos State Chapter.

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