Mrs. Bolanle Edwards is the MD/CEO of Strap and Safe Child Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that has been in the forefront of advocacy for use of seatbelts for children. In this interview, she explains to Safety Record Newspaper’s News Editor, John Ogunsemore the importance of seatbelts for children. Excerpts.
What’s Strap and Safe Child Foundation all about?
Strap & Safe Child Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which was borne out of passion for safety especially amongst children between the ages of 0 and 12 -years of age. Safety of little children being conveyed in vehicles has been taken for granted for too long a time in Nigeria. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics confirm that a child is killed in an accident every three minutes around the world, 42 per cent of children are killed by recklessness, speeding, drunken motorists.
Presently there is no law enforcing the use of car seats and seat belts for children, this is the primary reason why Strap & Safe Foundation is set up, to educate the society at large and to lobby the legislature to pass the law on enforcing the use of car seats for Children between this age brackets.
We officially started in April 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria. SSCF currently partners with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State Ministry for Transportation, Special Marshals, law enforcement agencies, local and international not-for-profit organisations.
We have been involved in some projects like the UN Safety week, Horn Free day by the Lagos state Ministry of Transportation, UN Pedestrian week, Interventions in both government and private Lagos state schools, Media Interventions,2016 Children’s Day ‘strap that child now’ walk, World Remembrance day for victims of road accident, Religious places, installation of school road signs etc.
Objectives are: to inform all care givers about the dangers of conveying children without child restraints in vehicles; to prevail on government through our planned programme initiatives to enact laws that will ensure children are restrained in vehicles; and to continually ensure safety of the Nigerian child on our roads, because they are the future of Nigeria.
What motivated you to start the foundation?
I got motivated about 10 years-plus ago when I started seeing the unsafe way children were being transported from point A to B without any sort of restraint. And of course the alarming statistic of child mortality in Nigeria. It was not like we all grew up using car seats or seat belts; I guess we are just products of grace. I told myself ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Can you give a brief overview of the foundation’s programmes and activities since inception?
Strap and Safe Child Foundation has been having various interventions and child safety advocacy at different levels since 2009 at Schools, Media (Radio, TV, prints), churches, parks, road shows and so on. Sometimes done in collaboration with the FRSC, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation and some other NGOS like the Road Safety Coalition of Nigeria (RSC).
The next phase for us now is to embark on a new project called HRS – Home Safety, Road Safety and School Safety. This way we can do a proper holistic overview of safety in general. And this will be thought in the school curriculum.
Is the foundation achieving its aims as you envisaged at the outset?
My answer is NO! Safety business is not such a ‘popular’ project to embark upon especially in this part of the world where people think it’s a foreign idea or for the crème de la crème of the society. So it was very difficult trying to convince people to keep their children alive in a moving vehicle or keeping them safe as pedestrians. It’s a bit better but we are still very far from the projected timeline given by UN decade of Action vision 2020 since 2009, whereby every country should have reduced road accidents by at least 50%.
I believe we can achieve more when the child safety bill SSCF has been proposing is passed and becomes a law. That way, there is proper enforcement and punishment which can invariably reduce child mortality in Nigeria. South Africa is ahead of us in that regard now.
The FRSC says use of seatbelt reduces likelihood of a fatality in an accident by 50%, yet many do not use it. In your experience, why don’t Nigerians like using seatbelts, especially for minors?
Like I said earlier, safety comes last here. A typical Nigerian will first think of how to get to his destination without considering if it will be a safe arrival or not. Do you recall how long it took us to get drivers to use their car seat belts? When the fine being slammed became unbearable, it became a way of life, suffice to say you won’t see some drivers flouting the law.
Reckless drivers contribute to the deaths of both majors and minors due to negligence, ignorance and selfishness. A minor doesn’t know any better but when you catch them young from age 0 then it becomes easy and safe moving children in vehicles until age 12 when they can start sitting in the front seat properly strapped. Like we say, road safety is no accident! So it’s better not to become part of the fatality statistics.
What’s your advice for parents and others not using seatbelt?
My advice and will always stand by it…if it makes sense for you as an adult to be properly strapped whilst in motion then I think the children also deserve some sort of respect of being transported and safely strapped in their car seats or by using the car seat belts . Recall 42% children die yearly whilst a child dies every three minutes somewhere around the world. So think about it and do the needful before you regret your ‘suicidal’ action/s.
Our slogan…let’s secure the future!