Child protection network CPN, an initiative of UNICEF in collaboration in all partners working in the area of child and women rights protection on Monday organized 2024 Children's Day with the theme: Inclusion For Every Child.

The programme was proudly sponsored by International Idea.

The coordinator of the programme who is the Lagos state coordinator of child protection network and doubles as the executive coordinator of Bimbo Odukoya foundation, Mrs Aderonke Oyelakin stated that the programme was organized across the nation by CPN which is a network of NGOs that work with children to celebrate Nigerian child and that every child in Lagos state should be allowed to participate in their own welfare, protection, decision making and education.

According to her, "we shouldn't separate the children because a child is first a child whether he or she has disability or not. That why the children's day programme was organized for over 300 children from different strata. From orphanages, shelters, streets and with disabilities.

She used the avenue to appeal to government and other stakeholders to look at the challenges our children are facing and intervene by implementing the school free feeding programme which will go a long way to carter mostly for many children that goes to their various schools on hunger.

Mrs Oyelakin drew the attention of government to cases whereby some children do faint or collapse in schools due to hunger. 

To her, though parents are expected to take care and feed their children, but the economic hardship has affected so many parents to the extent that they cannot afford to feed their children before sending them to school.

In addition, she talked about the protection of children in their various schools and posited that children shouldn't be allowed to go to school without returning home safely due to various forms of abuses and molestations.

In her words, "we all need to protect children in their schools and neighborhoods, and endeavour to report any form of abuse of any child by calling numbers of organisations working on child's rights. We should always say something if we see anything concerning the children.

"Let me end by calling on Lagos state government to liase and synergize with other neighbouring states government where it has been discovered through many cases we have handled and treated that children are being brought into the street of Lagos for child labour, hawking and begging. Most of these victims are not from Lagos.

"Most importantly, government need to formulate, implement and enforce laws, especially the child's rights law. Those laws should be simplified into various languages for easy knowledge." She submitted.

On her part, the representative of the main sponsor of the children's day programme, International Idea, Mrs Abimbola Ose, congratulated the children for having an entertaining and educative children's day celebration and commended child protection network for organizing a befitting programme for them.

According to her, "the key component of our work is to protect women, children and persons with disability.

Holistic development and support of the child is our goal.

"We are inspired to support this year children's day. Up until this year's event, we've never support children's day programme. 

Though, we have been working with child protection network for years, this is our maiden event on children's day, and we intend to continue to support them as the funds are available and the programme continues because we believe in what they do.

"We believe in the right and development of every child.

Today, we have three things for the children: they're special, loved, and can achieve whatever they want to achieve.

They shouldn't let anything or anybody pull them down." She concluded.

Also at the programme to celebrate with the children on their day was the President of African Women Lawyers Association, Barrister Amanda Demechi Asagba.

She hinted that as an association of legal minds and advocates that have been working for the defends of child's rights, they have seen a whole lot and that the situation is not palatable at all.

According to Mrs Amanda, "it is like Nigerian child has been abandoned, neglected or do l see abandoned. 

So much is happening out there. It is shocking that even as we speak, with all the the advocacy we have been doing, we still have children on the street and out of school children are still many.

Even the ones in school, what's the provision for their safety? In the midst of abduction and kidnapping, children are being defiled and rapped on daily basis.

"It is so sad that the men are not out there for prostitutes anymore. They're not out there for ladies. They are now defiling young children as young as six months. It is really bad.

We at ALWA, our goal is to protect women and children. And to end any form of indignity to children and women.

"We also press for gender equality. In doing this, our mission is reaching out to African women and African child.

We go the extra mile to do school outreach, hospital outreach, community and market outreach.

The icing on the cake is that we represent young children and women whose rights is been trampled on anywhere, any day, anytime free of charge, and ensure they get justice.

We ensure cases of child and women abuses are incidented and prosecuted without allowing the victims to be stigmatized and traumatized.

"At ALWA, we ensure that victims and their parents are not stigmatized, attacked, harassed and intimidated. That's why we usually relocate the victims and keep them in special homes.

One of the major things we do for the victims is to give them courage to speak up and build their confident to be able to present their cases in court without fear of anybody.

Many of them now come out to stand as advocates.

We have send many of them to school in partnership with PPOs. Some of them are now graduates working to protect the girl child.

"When l mean neglected, government need to provide welfare packages, health and school insurance so that victims doesn't regret reporting incident of abuses.

Government have not done enough to even those victims taken to public homes. And l have written lot of letters to government and those in position of authority without positive response.

"ALWA has plan to build shelters to take care of victims. Although, we have already bought the land, but have not built it.

We hereby call on all stakeholders to care for children on the street because to fight insecurity, we need to start caring for children from their cradle since those not taken care of will surely live with those ones living comfortably." She emphasized.

The Director of Administration, Jashabel Touch-A-Heart (JTAH) foundation, Mrs Maureen Obire who was also on ground to celebrate with the children advised the children not to be afraid to dream and explore.

She further urge them not to be intimidated and afraid to speak out in the face of abuses or tragedies.

While speaking to the press, she introduced her foundation as one which prioritize any form of violence against women and girls child.

According to her, "our foundation has over 5,000 women and it is located in Alimosho area of Lagos, which is the largest local government in the state.

"Actually, we started with the children but when we discovered that some of these children are always back to the street without going to school, we decided to involve their parents.

We take the women on training, counselling, advocacy and intervention because most of them are either victims or parents of victims.

We also empower them in skills and trade in order to be able to take care of themselves and their children.

"As part of the lessons of this year's children's day celebration, l implore the children to try to be better than they are next year.

I look forward to see them aspire to rule the world, take up their space and exhibit the culture and values they've been taught here and their homes." She reiterated.

The children used the event to display and expose the challenges they're presently facing and call for intervention from government and other stakeholders.

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