By Aisha Gambo
Zaria (Kaduna state) – The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday, called on religious and traditional leaders in Kaduna state to support the campaign against child marriage and other violence against children.
Mr Dennis Onoise, child protection specialist UNICEF, made the call in Zaria during the phase one of a two-day workshop on the impact of Violence Against Children (VAC).
According to Onoise, traditional and religious leaders have a tremendous role to play to reduce child marriage; a development he noted is a prevalent in northern part of Nigeria.
He said that the role of traditional and religious leaders could not be over emphasised as they hold a highly respected position in the society.
“We believe that traditional leaders they can change the negative social norms practiced by their subjects.
The expert identified child marriage as one of the factors responsible for girls less than 18 years suffering from Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF).
He described child marriage as a disturbing form of VAC, adding that children concerned were mostly denied the right for childhood while their physical, emotional and psychological health were also affected.
Onoise noted that the girl-child might be seen as physically developed but lacked the mental and psychological maturity and as such could not act or take a decision like an adult.
Zubair Galadima-Soba, the state Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA),expressed the commitment of the agency toward building a violence free society and one conducive for the children.
He stated that it was the responsibility of parents, religious leaders, traditional leaders and other stakeholders to ensure that children grow up and be good leaders.
Galadima-Soba, who commended religious leaders for enjoining their followers to be tolerant and patient while making sure that children were brought up in the way of God.
“We should be child protection ambassadors and make sure there is no violence against children again,” he said
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workshop was organised by the NOA with support from UNICEF.
Participants, mostly Islamic clerics and traditional leaders were drawn from the from six local government areas of the state.
The organizers said the workshop was to update the knowledge of the participants on the current situation of VAC and design evidence based communication campaign on VAC, including child marriage.
Participants also agreed on modalities for conducting community dialogue on the impact of VAC for the development of community, prevention of VOC and response action.