Since the presidential launch of the Violence Against Children (VAC) priority campaign in September 2015, Lagos state is the first state to launch its own VAC campaign in solidarity with the federal government. This is a direct response to the staggering statistics emerging from Nigeria as a breeding ground for sustained violence against minors. The Vanguard Nigeria reports that guests expected to grace the campaign include the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais and Ms. Jean Gough of the US Mission in Nigeria.
The survey on VAC in Nigeria, carried out by the National Population Commission (NPC) with support from UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that approximately 6 out of every 10 Nigerian children under the age of 18 experience some form of physical, emotional and sexual violence before they turn 18 years old. One in two children experience physical violence, one in four girls and one in ten boys experience sexual violence, while one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence.
In 2014, NOI Polls conducted a poll which suggested that child rape was one of the most common forms of violence against children (VAC). Sixteen percent of respondents who took part in the poll suggested public awareness campaign as one of the ways to put a stop to VAC in the country.
Shortly after hosting the Lagos marathon, the governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, has partnered with UNICEF to bring about this movement and the VAC campaign will take place on February 24, 2016.
These are a few things Lagosians can expect as the campaign kicks off in their city:
Shared experiences – While many may agree that talk and no action does not change anything, awakening people’s consciousness to the fact that VAC exists in the country cannot be accomplished without talking. This can be done in various ways, not just by making speeches around the subject matter in an elementary form, but also social media activism and even enabling survivors of VAC to tell their stories to people in their community. As UNICEF puts it; ‘bring your friends together in your neighbourhood or school/college to talk about how violence affects children in your community.’
School activism – Although a lot of children are out of school due to the economic challenges their parents may face, the VAC campaign will likely focus on bringing awareness to children in schools. This could be done by incorporating the End Violence Against Children campaign resources into what the children use everyday like comic books and fun posters. This will help send a strong message to the children, enlightening them on what abuse/violence looks like and how to stand up to it, regardless of how young they are.
Celebrity pleas – Just like Liam Neeson did two years ago for UNICEF, there may be Nigerian celebrities who will take part in the VAC campaign, lending their voices and celebrity status to make videos like the one below in order to get people actively involved in the campaign. This has previously been done in Senegal and Liberia. It may not seem like a lot but there is definitely something about celebrities endorsing worthy causes in their environment which ultimately spark off a call to action and mass involvement in such a cause.