The fear of children being sexually molested is now on the increase in Nigeria. As a child photographer and victim of child sexual abuse i know very well the importance of child protection. But what do we do when teenage boys and men soak themselves into pornography? The use of smart phone and internet which is supposed to be a blessing to our generation is the means through which this pornography is being enjoyed. Many times it seem like fun till they want sexual pleasure so bad and they pounce on the nearest vulnerable being around them, oftentimes children and women.
Drug abuse and alcohol is another vice that makes sexual abuse easy for perpetrators. Many times you find someone say they did it under influence. Now alcohol and drugs are very affordable for people whose earning power is very very low. Gone are the days when only the rich afford such vices. You can go through the street of Agege in Lagos, Nigeria and see a sachet of alcohol for N50 or N100. A ridiculous amount that a teenager can cough out from their daily lunch money.
Having been a prey in the hands of my uncle and his son i know that the best way to protect children from sexual abuse is to teach them their rights. Rights to their bodies, rights to say NO to sex and other vices, rights to report any wrong doing etc. The more the perpetrator know that a child knows his or her rights, the more they reconsider the option of abusing the child.
More than teaching them their rights, adults need to make reporting easy for children. This can be achieved if we soften up on always dishing out instructions to children ,rather we should give them room to always say their view about happenings. A child who knows there is always room for him or her to talk about anything will be bold enough to report sexual abuse cases and every other uncomfortable cases.
Also Love can never be over emphasized. We need to feed children with overdose of love so much that anyone promising them love and affection will not be able to win such conversation. We can feed them with love by saying it to them, saying it to others in front of the children, supporting them through fear and being available as much as possible.
Already i volunteer with the Lagos state government sexual violence department for advocacy. I also use all my social media platform and that of my child photography business to educate parents about sexual abuse and advocate for better choices in protecting the children. I have spoken in about 30 places to address youths about the adverse effect of sexual abuse, substance abuse, the importance of the future ahead of them and the solution they carry inside of them for Nigeria and the world.
To make my child protection advocacy easier, i published a memoir on my firsthand experience with child sexual abuse and share it to the public at no cost. Already it has received recognition from the Deputy British high commission for Nigeria and the Lagos state government as it already serves as a case study that NGO's, Schools and other organizations use for educating the public about sexual abuse.
I hope to see in 2023, a Nigeria that values child protection and gives every child room to grow to their full potential. I also hope to work with the government in creating a policy that provides life time mental health care for victims of sexual abuse and perpetrators so they do not come out of jail and continue the cycle of abuse. This can be done if the other 35 states in the country will have a shared vision of child protection like Lagos state government. I hope to be able to take some training on civic education and policy making so i can influence the government at all level positively in this direction.