Death of 26 girls at sea renews call for child rights

ActionAid Nigeria, an anti-poverty agency, has called on the Nigeria federal government to enforce the Child Rights Act (CRA) to safeguard the life of the Nigerian child.

It came after 26 girls, aged 14 to 18, died while attempting to cross the Mediterreanean.

Interim Country Director of the organisation, Funmilayo Oyefusi said, “while we welcome and appreciate the calls by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on the United Nations and Italian government to investigate what led to the death of these girls, we will like to draw attention to the growing menace of child abuse and inadequate protection for children; especially girls.

“When parents and the government fail to protect children or create a conducive environment for the girl-child to thrive, she becomes vulnerable to all sorts of social ills such as forced prostitution, domestic servitude and forced begging and the result is one that we have just witnessed.

According to Oyefusi “Section 30 (2) b of the CRA makes it clear that a child shall not be used as a slave or for the practices similar to slavery such as sale or trafficking of the child and the section also stated clearly punishment for defaulters, but what we find is that parent are now encouraging their children to go through illegal migration, hawk or work as servants all for greener pastures; the state needs to enforce clear penalty for defaulters.

“The government obviously has not done enough in addressing issues concerning the girl child and needs to get more girls in schools. According to UNICEF 43% of Nigerian girls are married before 18. Education leads to development and growth and, if we are not taking this seriously, it will impact on our growth as a nation. Other issues affecting girls include poor sanitation and shortage of female teachers which we have found to be great motivators for girls to stay and complete school.

ActionAid Nigeria therefore calls on the Federal Government to do more than just call for investigation of the incident but start to address issues that affect and influence young people and children.

“We need to educate both children and parents on the provisions of CRA and take bold steps in addressing the long list of challenges the girl child faces. Investing in children is first and foremost, a moral imperative; it is also important on practical grounds for sustainable development,” Oyefusi said.