The Advocacy, Campaign and Policy Manager, Save the Children International Nigeria (SCI) Mrs Hope Oduma, has harped on the need to ensure increase media advocacy on issues of rape, child marriage and other rights violation against children in the society.
Oduma disclosed this in her opening remark at the ongoing five-day training of media working group on Monday in Kano state.
The training which had journalists from different media organisations based in Abuja, Gombe and Katsina.
The work is being sponsored by Save the Children International.
She said the media’s role was key in terms of championing issues affecting children.
“When we talk about children being rape or due to malnutrition, we want to you to talk of the issues as you see them happening in society and not just based on what SCI is doing to stop those things from happening.
“So we want these issues to be bigger movement so that the way we gossip about issues on social media, let such issues have momentum so that we are trying to gossip about them too; we want things that will add value to society,” she said.
Giving an overview of SCI’s work in Nigeria and the project ‘Towards Ending Child Marriage (TECM)’, Oduma said efforts at achieving SCI programmes must have a holistic approach with the media playing a complementary role of advocating for girl-child education.
“When a girl completes secondary school, she starts to dream more; I want to go to the university and if that is achieved, she escapes early marriage and that’s why girl-child education is very key.”
According to the SCI official, there are lots of misconceptions in the society that militate against girl-child education and “funny enough poverty is not number one but the desire by families to protect the chastity of their daughters.
“How do you convince a father not to marry out his daughter if she is going to be sexually active at the age of 15?.
“Also, our research at the state level revealed that there is a law of socialisation that has made girls think the way they are thinking; even if you build schools right in front of them, the will still not go to schools.
“Girls often think that after 15 years, they feel they will start to lose their beauty and the implication is that they want to get their husbands before age 15; so for those girls if you gift them school, they won’t go,” she stated.
Oduma stated that “there is a lot of work to be done to create awareness in that regard”, adding that the media’s intervention in this aspect was key because “we are what we hear and what we see; so we need the media to educate and do socialisation for society.”
She said the media was needed to sell the benefits of girl-child education and other issues to the society and government, and we want what would be of value to be on the front-burner in the media.
Oduma commended the media for their efforts so far in promoting issues of child rights and TECM and charged participants to be more active to get the best from the training while assuring that the training would be more interactive in nature.
On his part, Coordinator, Community Engagement and Advocacy, SCI, Mr Akpan Effiong speaking SCI’s child safeguard policy and Code of conduct, charged journalists to help sanitize the society from sexual harassment, intimidation and bullying.
Effiong stressed that the SCI which he said was a child rights organisation would not compromise on issues of child rights no matter who is involved.
He said child safeguard was a collective and individual responsibility to “make sure that our people or programmes do not harm children in the community; this responsibility includes the prevention of risk of harm and unintentional harm.”
One of the participants, the Vice President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Northeast, Mr Alhassan Yahya said the training was timely considering the high rate of rape and sexual harassment of the girl-child. “For instance, statistics showed that Gomve state is second with high rate of sexual abuses and so on.”
Yahya pointed out that if the Child Rights Act which he said had gone through the first and second reading at the Kano State House of Assembly was domesticated, it would help protect the girl-child so that they can sleep with their eyes closed.
While charging other participants to leverage on the training to build their capacity, the NUJ VP said at the end of the training, he expects to see more “ visibility of the project for the good of our children in our respective states.”
Our correspondent reports that the highlight of the opening ceremony of the five-day training was an interactive session with group works as well as Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on Security for journalists while carrying out their jobs.