The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on youths in Imo State and other parts of Nigeria to join hands with the government and other relevant agencies to put an end to all forms of violence against children, women and the vulnerable.
The call was made at the end of a two-day training programme organised by the agency for youths on gender-based violence at Ehime in Mbano Council Hall on Wednesday. The event was organised in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Imo State Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable Groups.
According to the UNICEF Consultant for Imo and Ebonyi states, Benjamin Mbakwe, the training was to equip the youths with the appropriate information on how to discourage, reduce and stop all forms of abuse like rape, child labour and harmful cultural practices including female genital mutilation, child marriage, amongst others in their communities.
Mbakwe revealed that six out of 10 Nigerian children experienced physical, sexual, mental, emotional and other forms of violence before they reached age 18.
“Many of them live with the negative effects of this violence all through their lives”, he said.
Imo State Director of NOA, Vitus Ekeocha, urged the participants to spearhead the campaign to protect children.
“Protecting the child is a collective responsibility, and every child deserves to be safe, protected and loved, simply by virtue of being a child. In every action concerning a child, whether undertaken by an individual, public or private body, institution or service, court of law or administrative or legislative authority, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the ministry, Austin Okoro said the state had enacted some laws to safeguard the vulnerable from all forms of violence. He also noted that most parents were unable to report issues of violence to the appropriate quarters – a sad reality which he described as “a major factor inhibiting prosecution of perpetrators, to serve as a deterrent to others.”