The Initiator of Touch Me Not campaign, a campaign against child sexual molestation, Mrs Mercy Makinde, has decried the rampant cases of sexual molestation and exploitation of children in the Nigerian society.
She disclosed that her research showed that 80 out of 100 children in the country were being subjected to sexual abuse, with many of the cases going unreported.
Makinde, who also founded the Amazing Amazon Initiative for women, made this known when Safe Schools, a school safety advocacy group, held its inaugural child safety event to raise consciousness on hazards children face in the school and home environments.
The event tagged SAFEtegious 1.0 held at Evergreen School, Yaba, Lagos, on Saturday, June 10.
She said, “When I started the campaign, I knew children were being abused, but my expectation was that I would go into a hall of 100 children and I would find five or 10 who would say that they were being abused.
“But to my greatest shock, in a hall of 100 children, I have had 80 being abused.
“That is my experience and I am not even exaggerating. And that is those who even bother to speak up.”
A child protection advocate, Mrs Wemimo Adebiyi, while describing sexual abuse as one of the leading dangers children face in our society, said it was necessary to create more awareness about the menace in order to protect children.
She further explained that one of the best ways to protect children from sexual assault was to teach them about the areas of their body that were “public” or “private”.
While addressing children at the event, she said, “Children have a right to feel safe; if you are around anyone and you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, stay away.
“Your body is not meant to be touched.”
She added, “We have had cases in schools of four, five year olds playing with each other’s body parts. And by six, they are already sexually alert.”
The mother of two said it was the responsibility of every parent to deliberately create an emotionally-sane environment for their children and help them “get hold of their bodies.”
Adebiyi, who is also a certified social worker, lamented the sexualisation of the society and praised Nigerian parents putting in the sacrifice required to raise children in such a “sexualised” environment.
According to the Convener and Program Director of Safe Schools, Mrs Ike Aigbogun-Osho, the event was organised as part of activities to mark this year’s Child Safety Week that lasted from 5th-11th June.
“It is expected that friends, families, communities and professionals would show they care by playing their part in keeping children safe and sharing their experience and knowledge – not just about the horrors of accidents, but also the really practical, simple things they do to prevent them,” she said.