Constitution Amendment, Child’s Rights, The Senate and the Rest of us- An UPDATE

BRIEF PREFACE TO UPDATE : Thank you for stopping by to read this piece. Thank you for retweeting, rebloging and sharing on Facebook and other social media platforms. Most importantly, I thank you for your comments: the kudos and the knocks. I do not take them for granted at all. I pray that God will continue to give us wisdom to tactically and strategically plead the noble cause of our future, our children.

I think it is the noblest cause on the earth to not only prepare the future for our children and also prepare our children for the future. In view of the responses so far I think, I should update my piece, which has been widely received yesterday.

Please note that I do not claim to have all the social, political and professional answers and the wisdom for same concerning this very important discussion, concerning our precious children. My goal is to supply some information that will give direction to our noble agitation for the present and the future of our children. With this in mind, I invite you to read my updated version of the piece I posted yesterday…Thank you as you read and I look forward to your comments:

Permit me to warn upfront that I do not seek to be popular with this piece as always. I am never a fan of popular opinion. I am always a fan of the truth of my conscience as instructed by God and sacredness of facts.

As a 16 year long-distance runner on the serious matter of child’s rights and protection, working with parents, leading private and public schools, agencies of government, local and international bodies and having been in the trenches with UNICEF in the last 8 years, I have come to accept that in any social intervention direction and clear-cut goals are more important than motion. And except, to our motion, we add direction and clear-cut goals, the best we will achieve is still motion or movement without advancement. I guess that is why early social scientists concluded and aptly so ‘a mob has no soul, no conscience; just paws and claws and teeth.’

I guess also that is why some people, though always few must stand out as the conscience of a struggle or a conscience of a people, who are gunning after social change in a particular area or geographical location. Please permit me to submit with all sincerity in me that ‘no conscience, no meaningful and attainable social struggle.’  I have also understood and accepted that getting emotional,   becoming abusive, throwing caution into the whirl wind and being vulgar does not have any significant value in the theater of matured and result-oriented social struggle.

Having established the foregoing, permit me declare my unalloyed support for any meaningful, tactical and well-articulated outcry against any form of abuse against the Nigerian child, including child marriage. Child Marriage is condemnable in its entirety.  The destructive impact of child marriage is already in public domain and I do not think I should dwell too much on that here. Since the Senator Yerima saga in 2009, I have kept as the background of my twitter(@taiwoakinlami) page the picture of Yerima and his 13 year-old Egyptian bride, with this inscription, ‘It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.’  As far as I am concerned, justice has not been served in the matter. Keeping the picture on my twitter page is my little way of keeping the issue alive in my mind and others, who are still interested in seeing that justice is done in the matter.

Now, permit me to comment on the present onslaught on the Nigerian Senate about legalizing child marriage. Let me begin by stating the facts as it was reported, since every meaningful public discourse must begin with the facts of the issues. Scott Prestwich Charles, a renowned journalist submitted many years ago that ‘comment is free but facts are sacred.’ It means that before one exercises his freedom of expression, he or she must get his or facts right or straight.

We are all aware the senate has embarked the amendment of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for a while now. The senate had considered various parts of the constitution for amendment, including terms of office of elected officers and autonomy of Local Government Authority. Last week, the senate considered for amendment certain of provisions of Sections 26 to 32of the constitution, which deals with citizenship. Controversy began when the honourable members of the senate considered Section 29, which deals with renunciation of citizenship for amendment. Section 29(1) provides, ‘any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.’ Section 29(4) (a) and (b) provides, ‘for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section: (a) “full age” means the age of eighteen years and above;  (b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.’ The senate voted to remove the latter, that is, Section 29(4)(b) and the vote was successful in favour of removal. Senator Yerima later raised an objection on the ground that the removal of the provision was ‘un-Islamic,’ citing Second Schedule, Part 1, Item 61 of the constitution, known as ‘Exclusive Legislative List,’ which states ‘the formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto.’ The senator mobilized certain like-minds in the senate and got the amendment put to vote again and those who had earlier supported the removal could not muster the two-thirds majority votes required to seal the removal. By two-thirds majority votes, Section 29(4)(b) remains in the constitution.

Having stated the facts, permit me to state before I make my comments and deductions that the senate does not have final power when it comes to the amendment of the constitution. Section 9(2) of the Constitution provides, ‘An Act of the National Assembly for the altertion of this Constitution… shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States.’

Now, flowing from the foregoing facts, please permit me to submit as follows:

  1. That the issue before the senate was not child’s rights or child marriageable age of the Nigerian child.
  2. That Section 29(4)(b) has always being part and parcel of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic and the senate has not passed a new law legalizing child marriage as it is being widely circulated.
  3. That in furtherance to the immediate paragraph, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has never legalized child marriage.
  4. That in furtherance to the foregoing, that the Child’s Rights Act, which was passed into law in July 2003, which by virtue of Section 12 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the domestication of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 is the foundational law today, recognized by the constitution, relating to Child’s Rights in Nigeria and the Act has criminalized Child Marriage in Nigeria.
  5. That in all matters relating to Children in Nigeria, the provisions of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 supersedes the provisions of all other enactments on children and other matters by virtue of Section 274 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003.
  6. That by the express provision of Section 277 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003, which defines a child as anyone below 18 years of age and Sections 21 and 22 of same Act, child marriage and betrothal is not only outlawed but criminalized in Nigeria.
  7. That for the Child’s Rights Act to be enforced in the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Houses of Assembly of each state must pass (domesticate) it into law, considering the fact that most of the matters relating to children are under concurrent legislative list and that as at today 24 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have passed the Act into state Laws. The 12 states that are yet to pass the Act into Law are: Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Katsina, and Zamfara.
  8. That as it is today, the states, which have not passed the Child’s Rights Act into state laws, are core northern states and one of the major issues is their disposition towards child marriage and related matters.
  9. That by virtue of Second Schedule, Part 1, Item 61 of the constitution, known as ‘Exclusive Legislative List,’ which states  the areas the National Assembly can make laws on to include, ‘the formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages other than marriages under Islamic law and Customary law including matrimonial causes relating thereto,’ the best option of stakeholders in the life of the child is to put pressure on the states governments of the northern states, which have not passed the Child’s Rights Act into the state laws to do so. As it is, it appears the National Assembly does not have power to legislate on the issues relating to the formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages contracted under Islamic Law and Customary Law.
  10. That in the alternative, stakeholders should agitate for the amendment of Second Schedule, Part 1, Item 61 of the constitution, known as ‘Exclusive Legislative List,’ to read ‘the formation, annulment and dissolution of marriages.’
  11. That, though the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 is not a perfect piece of legislation, it has gone a long way in providing a formidable legal and social frameworks for the protection of the rights of the Nigerian child in the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. There are spacious rooms for improvement but the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 is supreme in all matters relating to children except in relation to express provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the supreme law of the land, from which every other law receives their validity.
  12. That Section 29(4)(b), which provides, ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age’ is in relation to renunciation of citizenship and taking a keener look at the minds of the drafter of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I believe Section 29(4)(b), creates a leeway for a child either born in Nigeria or become a Nigerian by marriage to renounce her citizenship of Nigeria before she is eighteen years old and either seek asylum in another country or return to her country of birth. Please note that in reaching my queer conclusion on Section 29(4)(b), I have decided to take my liberty in considering the Mischief Rule of interpretation of statute, which tries to consider the mischief the drafter of a particular law may be trying to correct.
  13. That what could be the widest interpretation of Section 29(4)(b)? Could someone in any of the states where the Child’s Rights Act, 20003 have been passed into state laws, who contract child marriage, present Section 29(4)(b) as a defence when charged to court for breaching either Section 21 or 22 of the Act? If he does, would such defence hold any water in law? I think not.
  14. That reasoning aloud, could the absence of Section 29(4)(b) save a child from being given out in marriage in the states where the Child’s Rights Act has not been passed into state laws? I also do not think so.
  15. That in my humble opinion, I do not think the removal of Section 29(4)(b will save the Nigerian Child from child marriage, if  we do not collectively put pressure on the core northern states, who are yet to pass the Child’s Rights Act into State laws to do so without further delay.

As far as I am concerned, one incontrovertible gain of the recent constitutional amendment as it relates to Section 29(4)(b) is that it gives stakeholders another golden opportunity to reopen the issue of child protection in Nigeria as it relates particularly to child marriage and the northern parts of Nigeria.

This golden opportunity, I am here to warn is not an end in itself. It is only a means to an end and it can only be a means to an end if we put the issues in the right perspective. What is the end? For me, the end is creating a nation fit for children, built through enlightenment and sustained through child protection social policing. It is not a one-off agenda. It is a lifetime agenda and that is the commitment some of us have made close to two decades ago.

It may interest all stakeholders to note the report a recent survey conducted by the United Nations on the state of the world children. The survey sadly reveals that never in the history of our world have our children been under the kind of siege and abuse they are today. The United Nations Survey exposes a shocking picture of physical, emotional, sexual abuses, neglect and mistreatment of children every corner of the countries of the world. The survey declares, ‘while abuse may be at its worst in the developing world, no country is guiltless.’ The United Nations Survey also reveals ‘International conventions on human rights for children have flatly failed to guarantee protections for the most vulnerable members of society.’

My professional and experiential interpretation of the foregoing submission of the United Nations Survey, cited above is that the law as an independent tool of child right’s protection is as powerless as a paper tiger. Therefore, for the law to make sense, it must be mixed with enlightenment. It is my informed position that Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement™ of the laws relating to children, their rights and responsibilities. The strength of enlightenment is that it leads to prevention of child abuse. ‘Prevention is better than cure.’

Enlightenment is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The goal of enlightenment is Child Protection Social Policing™. Child Protection Social Policing™ happens where every primary and secondary custodian within the four (4) institutions (Family, Community, State and International Community) responsible for the protection of the child are equipped with Knowledge (what to do), Skills (how to do it) and Attitude (wisdom and inner strength) to professionally and effectively protect, preserve and defend the rights of the child, even at the cost of personal discomfort.

The United Nations recently supported the position that Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement™ as it submits, ‘responding to child abuse cases is four times expensive as child protection and protecting children against violence and abuse…’

I hereby rest my case here, calling all of us, who are genuinely interested in matters relating to the well-being of our children to redirect our struggle in the direction of meaningful social engagement, aimed at achieving the best interest of the child through a well articulated agenda.

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE. Have an INSPIRED day.

Taiwo Akinlami. Legal Practitioner, Child Protection Specialist and Consultant to UNICEF wrote from 12, Aba Johnson Crescent, Adeniyi Jones. 234-8033620843 principal@taiwoakinlami.com  http://www.taiwoakinlami.com @taiwoakinlami

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Children still battling to go to school: A Case for the Nigerian Child

Welcome to my weekly column, A Vote for U.N. Global Education First Initiative, where I discuss the principles and ideals of the initiative as it affects the African child.

Today, I will like to relate the state of the Nigerian child and education to the recent policy paper on education and conflict, released by The Education For All Global Monitoring Report team in conjunction with Save the Children for the Global Education First Initiative’s ‘Malala Day’ on July 12 and hosted on the website of U.N. Global Education First Initiative (www.globaleducationfirst.org).

According to the story hosted on the site of U.N. Global Education First Initiative, ‘globally, the number of children out of school has fallen, from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011, but the new paper shows that such progress has not registered for children in conflict-affected countries.’

The story further reveals, ‘the paper calls for immediate action to bring education to the 28.5 million primary school age children out of school in countries affected by conflict who now represent half of the children who are denied an education. The slow progress in reducing the children out of school in the world has not benefitted those living in conflict affected countries; they now make up 50% of children who are denied an education, up from 42% in 2008.’

Sadly the report alerts that ‘of the 28.5 million primary school age children out of school in conflict-affected countries, 12.6 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, 5.3 million live in South and West Asia, and 4 million live in the Arab States. The vast majority – 95% – lives in low and lower middle income countries. Girls, who make up 55% of the total, are the worst affected, as they are often victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts.’

It depress me that despite the fact that the Arab States seems to be the boiling point of conflict today, they account for 4 million, while seemingly less troubled sub-Saharan African countries account for a whooping 12.6 million of  children of school age, who are out of school in conflict-affected countries.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the lion share of the figure.

It is in the light of the foregoing that I will like to address the present siege on education in Northern Nigeria. A UNICEF report submits, ‘forty per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.’

The foregoing reports show that children, particularly girls from the Northern parts of Nigeria are disadvantaged educationally. This report was before the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria and the recent war declared on education in that region by the Boko Haram sect.

UNICEF puts the total figure of pupils and teachers, who have been killed by Boko Haram since June 16, 2013 at 48 pupils and seven teachers. The sad thing is that the Nigeria government does not yet have a solution to the situation apart from declaring a state of emergency. The failure of the state of emergency to protect school children is evident in the fact that the 48 pupils and seven teachers were killed after the state of emergency was declared in their states.

As it is today many children and teachers have deserted most of the public schools in the Northern parts of the country out of the fear of attacks by Boko Haram. The situation has further worsened the poor state of education in the Northern parts of Nigeria.

My advocacy today is that the Northern parts of Nigeria should be declared as a conflict-affected area. Local and international concerned and pressure groups should put pressure on the Nigerian government to ensure safety for the Nigerian child. As I said in my article, published on July 9, 2013, I will say here again in concluding this piece, ‘I urge us to begin the debate today and I think the issues are clear in my mind: first, is the school environment safe for our children in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern part of Nigeria? If not, what kind of security measure are we to immediately put in place for the safety of our children, beyond a blanket declaration of a state of emergency? What kind of relief mechanics can we put in place for the affected schools and the families of the deceased, pupils and adults alike?’

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE. Have an INSPIRED day.

Introducing ChildProtectionCREED Roundtable (CR), Identifying a Role for You to Play in Child Protection

I think the saying, ‘never say never,’ is one of the truest truisms in the world. When we understand this truism, we will be careful how we give our words. The Truth of the matter is that we are in most cases not as in control as we think or as we desire.

Just Monday, here I solemnly made a commitment that I would not break the series on Commandment of Rights-Based Approach to Communication with Children. I think I broke the promise as soon as I made it. I was not able to be here yesterday. I had a personal emergency. Today, as I settle down to continue the journey, I felt the strong need to share something else entirely with you. So bear with the feeling of my infirmities as I share with you this important information.

ChildProtectionCREED Roundtable(CR)-Introduced : Permit me to introduce to you our ChildProtectionCREED Roundtable (CR). It is our latest efforts to enlighten primary and secondary child caregivers in the life on child protection. It is our commitment to leave every one without excuse in creating credible platforms to discuss and empower others and themselves on matters relating to Child Protection.

Having been in the forefront of Child Protection through the instrumentality of the law in the last 16 years and working with UNICEF in the last 8 years, we have come to the irresistible conclusion that the law as an independent tool of child protection is as powerless as a paper tiger. Therefore, for the law to make sense, it must be mixed with enlightenment. It is our informed position that Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement™ of the laws relating to children and their rights. The strength of enlightenment is that it leads to prevention of child abuse. ‘Prevention is better than cure.’

How does the roundtable work?: We seek individuals, who will assembly people of influence or friends within his/her network in a place of his/her choice and invite us to lead a discussion on Child Protection. We also seek organizations or group of friends, who will also work with us same way.

What we seek is an informal discussion, participatory in nature, brief enough not to waste the time of discussants, but long enough to sow an eternal seed that we get every discussant to act in the best interest of the child at all times. Therefore we seek to have the roundtable discussion at informal settings, like homes, gardens, offices, board/meeting rooms and other related environments. And if we have to meet in a hall, the sitting arrangement will be in form of community meeting. We seek the CR to hold in evenings of working days and weekends. It may also hold in the mornings, afternoons and evenings of public holidays or weekends. The duration of CR is between 1 hour, 30 minutes and 2 hours. No group is too small to hold the CR. Our principle in respect of number is ‘where-two-or-three-gathered.’

The CR discussions are done with our ChildProtectionCREED Handbook. At the end of the discussions, we seek that the discussants, having become persuaded that Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement™ of the laws relating to children and their rights will become one of our treasured Child Protection Social Policing™ Enthusiasts. Their twin post-CR commitment is to begin to relate with the children under their care according to their knowledge of Child Protection and also lead discussions in their own areas of influence, using our handbook.

Conclusion: I will like to close this introduction with a brief light on Child Protection Social Policing™. The goal of CR is enlightenment. But enlightenment is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The goal of enlightenment is Child Protection Social Policing™. Child Protection Social Policing™ happens where every primary and secondary custodian within the four (4) institutions (Family, Community, State and International Community) responsible for the protection of the child are equipped with Knowledge (what to do), Skills (how to do it) and Attitude (wisdom and inner strength) to professionally and effectively protect, preserve and defend the rights of the child, even at the cost of personal discomfort.

Thank you for reading; we look forward partnering with you as we urge you to give us access to your network. We round up this child-friendly advocacy in the words of Archimedes, ‘give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.’

Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE. Have an INSPIRED Day.

Commandment 9 of Rights-Based Communication with Children: Respect Confidentiality

Welcome to this series again. I have been hindered by the recent events of our great nation from continuing with this series I love so much. Thank God I am back and I think I back for good. I do not intend to look back again except we have an emergency to deal with. Also note that on Fridays, I will take a break from any topic I am addressing to dedicate time to my new column: ‘A Vote for U.N. Global Education First Initiative.’
Having said that, please permit me to share with us today Commandment 9 of Rights-Based Communication with Children: Respect Confidentiality.

Confidentiality breeds confidence and trust in our communication with children. It is a rule we must respect if we must get the best in our discussion with our children. What does confidentiality mean in communication with children? It means that when children discuss matters with us whether we consider it sensitive or otherwise, we do not discuss with the third party except as the third party is concerned in the matter either as an interested party or as a point of solution.
It is not everybody, who can handle information in respect of children.

One of the reasons, why children may not be comfortable in taking to their peers is that they may not be sure what their peers will do with the information. Such information when it gets into the public domain may become the child’s worst nightmare. Many children have become objects of bulling and ridicule because of an information about them, which is carelessly leaked to the public domain.

As primary and secondary custodians, we must learn to be discreet with our discussion with the children under our care. Many are too flippant to be confided in by the children under them. For example as a class teacher, the medical issues of a child in your class room are a confidential matter. The family issues, discussed with you are confidential. Many have turned matters of life and death to a child into a joking matter with their colleagues.

Many children do not talk to their caregivers today because the caregivers have not been disciplined in handling information willingly given to them by the child. I will like to share with you the story of a 12 year old girl in a boarding school. The girl has stopped wetting her bed since age four or so. One day she found herself in the pool of her urine on her bed in the middle of the night in the boarding house. She quietly woke up and took care of herself. None of her friends or hall mates found out. Concerned about the baffling incident, she confided in the hostel matron and sought counselling. Before she knew it the news of the ugly incident was in the public domain. The girl became an object of serious embarrassment. How did the matter become a subject of public domain? The unprofessional matron said she was trying to investigate the matter. The first question is that what is she trying to investigate? Secondly, why did she not seek her consent, even if there is something to investigate? The girl had to leave the school when the embarrassment and bulling was becoming too much for her to bear.

Lastly on the issue of confidentiality, it is important to note that if we are to use any information we obtain from a child in the process of our discussion with them either as a primary or secondary caregivers, we must seek their consent. Please note that where consent is not given, it will amount a breach of the child’s rights to go ahead and use such information. Kindly note that we must also seek the child’s consent or the consent of the primary or secondary caregivers, if we desire to get information with from them.
Please we need to be careful with this confidendial issue. Once our children cannot trust us, they stop talking to us and once they stop talking to us, we have lost them.
I think I should sign out here.

Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.

WISDOM…BOLDNESS…FAVOUR…FAITH…

WISDOM: The Principal ONE,
HE gave HIM without finding fault,
I have HIM.
BOLDNESS: The Heritage of the Righteous,
He gave me like HE gave the LION of the TRIBE of JUDAH.
FAVOUR: my Identity in Christ Jesus,
My shield, my crown, my devine fragrance.
FAITH: my currency, my link to all Spiritual blessings in heavenly places purchased for me by the BLOOD of the LAMB.
I see an AWESOME week ahead.
Taiwo Akinlami Sober on his knees on the LORD’s Day. Have an INSPIRED week. (www.taiwoakinlami.com)

Malala Yousufzai: Today Courage Takes a Stand with History

16 years ago I made a solemn commitment thus ‘My unflinching conclusion is that I am not here to live for myself but for my generation, beginning with serving my family and my immediate areas of influence. I strongly believe that I must help my generation attain and maximise their God-given potentials and empower them to liberate themselves from the oppressive limitations woven around them by any exploitative status quo. This is a task that must be done.’ Years gone by, God has helped me to be true to this personal commitment. I have not only received divine help to be committed, He has helped me to partner with local and international bodies to find expression for my commitment.

One lesson that have remained with me over the years is that nobody gives you power, you seize it. What is power? It is simply the ability to cause or prevent an action. When I speak about power, I consciously refer to human ingenuity. It is defined by two components. The first, we are limitless in our power to create. It further means that everything that has been created is a sign that we can do better. It is a commitment not to leave the world and its affairs the same way we met it. The second, we are limitless in our options for solutions to human problems.

The ultimate lesson, I have learnt about power is that we are never as powerless as we think or situation makes us to believe. I believe that is why Clair Boothe said, ‘there are no hopeless situations, but only hopeless people.’ The truth of the matter is that our world is yet to witness a hopeless situation but we have witnessed in torrential order battalions of hopeless men and women, who have abdicated the noble power to give evil a fight to finish and created invincibility around it. But if we dare to blow the whistle, we will always be surprised how much support we will garner. We will also understand that evil is not as invincible as it appears. The strength of evil is its seeming invincibility, created in the first instance by our covert and overt commitment to watch evil go unchallenged. This man-made invincibility is the source of fear and when fear takes root, we throw our hands in the air and pass the baton of responsibility of exercising power to fate, an overrated entity, which has no independent relevance, except as it is directed by human beings. A little wonder, the writers of the English dictionary declared, ‘chance’ as one of the synonyms of ‘fate.’ In the hands of fate, you also find active indifference, duplicity of silence and above all enthronement and acceptance of evil as a celebrated norm.

I dare submit that when power is engaged in the order of human ingenuity, it becomes fundamental to influence and influence is fundamental to impact. The interesting thing is that power is easier to exercise than many of us think. It is available to all. In fact, we are all born with enormous power. It is designed to be exercised first over one’s area of influence, beginning with oneself. It has the capacity to grow as one shows faithfulness in little.

My understanding of the basics of the dynamics of power helps me to relate with those who decide to exercise power against all odds. The truth is that there are never odds formidable enough to stand against power when the human spirit finds the liberty to express it. Thus Peter J. Daniel said, ‘the gift of courage isn’t rare, it’s just that it’s rarely tried.’ These are my thoughts today as I think about Malala Yousufzai as she turns 16.

Malala seized power at a very tender age of 12 when she chose to defy the Taliban to not only attend school but to also become the voice of many Pakistani girl children, who were banned from going to school by the Taliban. At the beginning of 2009, Yousafzai had an opportunity to write for BBC Urdu when her father, Ziauddin, was asked by Abdul Hai Kakkar a BBC reporter out of Pakistan, if any women at his school would write about life under the Taliban.

Malala declares her mission: ‘My purpose is to serve humanity.’ She fearlessly challenged the ineffectiveness of the Pakistani security services thus, ‘it seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.’ She does not have time to passing the bulk, she figured out the solution and her role therein as she declares with clarity and passion in the documentary, titled, ‘Class Dismissed,’ ‘I have a new dream…I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.’

In October 2011, in recognition of her selfless activism, Desmond Tutu announced Malala Yousafzai’s nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize. As a follow up to the international accolade, the Pakistani government honoured her with the unprecedented Pakistani National Youth Peace Prize in December same year.

By 2012, Malala became too hot to handle for the Taliban. The fire of her activism, which began like a little flicker in the corner of her conscience, had become a big national and international conflagration of indictment, raging to consume the evil of banning girls’ education in Pakistan. The enemy reacted with their usual tactic, ‘if you cannot stop the message, stop the messenger.’ On 9 October 2012, a Talban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She survived, though she suffered seeming unmanageable injuries.

Malala has not only defied the Taliban, she has also defied the pangs of death. It is worthy of note that Time magazine, in it’s In the April 18, 2013 edition, featured Malala, in the Icon section, as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Today, the unimpeachable crusader turns 16 and she presents the U.N. secretary-general with a petition asking for help to get all children, especially girls, into school by 2015. She will also address youth leaders at the world body’s headquarters in New York. Today has also been declared as Malala Day.

The relevance of Malala’s activism is revealed in the U.N declaration that 61 million children worldwide do not attend primary school. Many of them live in conflict zones. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his goodwill message on Malala’s birthday informed, ‘when women and girls are educated, they accelerate development in their families and communities. For every extra year of schooling, a girl increases her future earnings by up to 20 percent.’

Last September, the secretary-general in support of the right of the children of the world to education launched the U.N. Global Education First Initiative with the goal of putting every child in school and improving the quality of learning. I declare my full support for U.N. Global Education First Initiative and A World at School campaign to mark Malala Day. I declare open a new column on my blog(www.taiwoakinlami.wordpress.com), named, ‘A Vote for U.N. Global Education First Initiative,’ which will run every Friday to promote the ideals, values and messages of the initiative and Malala Day. So help me God.

It is interesting that Malala was named after Malalai of Maiwand a poetess and young Pashtun woman who fought alongside Ayub Khan and was responsible for the Afghan victory at the Battle of Maiwand on 27 July 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. She is also known as ‘The Afghan Jeanne D’Arc.’ Today, Malala is entering into shoes bigger than that of her name sake. As she stands face to face with history to plead the noble cause of the world children, I salute her courage. Happy Birthday Malala and I wish you well in your noble crusade.

The Inevitable Roles of the Family in Child Protection

Hello stakeholders, I think I was here 2 days ago to share with you my thoughts on the Yobe killing of our children. I still urge you to read that piece and take action. I have suspended my piece on Commandments of Rights-Based Communication till next week. I have not found peace and space to continue. Today, permit me to share with you this piece:The Inevitable Roles of the Family in Child Protection…Please enjoy and act.

A recent United Nation’s Survey reveals that never in the history of our world has the children of the world been exposed to the kind of abuse they are exposed to today. ‘A shocking picture of physical abuse and mistreatment of children in countries in every corner of the world, ranging from corporal punishment in schools to forced prostitution, rape and mutilation, was revealed in a survey by the United Nations’ reported the UK-based The Independent.

The publication also revealed that the UN Survey ‘says international conventions on human rights for children have flatly failed to guarantee protections for the most vulnerable members of society. While abuse may be at its worst in the developing world, no country is guiltless.’
I make two strong deductions from the foregoing. The first is that child abuse is in the increase the world over. The second is that the legal framework hitherto celebrated by the United Nations as the cure-all potion for the prevention and early intention to child abuse has failed woefully.
The question we must be interested in asking and answering is why the legal framework has failed woefully. I think I have an idea. In the last 16 years I have been in the forefront of Child Protection through the instrumentality of the law. I have in the process of my work found that the law on its own in as powerless as a paper tiger as an independent element in protecting our children from abuse. For the law to make sense, it must be mixed with enlightenment.

I have propounded and stood by my philosophy of child protection times without number at local and international fora that Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement™ of the laws relating to children and their rights. My simple logic is that enlightenment focuses on prevention while enforcement focuses on intervention or at most early intervention in cases of child abuse. Since prevention has been proven to be better and less expensive than cure, I have consistently advocated for what I call Social Policing™, which is aimed at preventing child abuses. The case for the superiority of enlightenment to prevention originally was informed by the thinking that the impact of child abuse is eternal, except there is divine intervention. Besides, the UN recently revealed that responding to child abuse cases is four times expensive as child protection and protecting children against violence and abuse aims at saving cost of families, communities and ultimately the state.

I must hasten to add here that the Social Policing™ phenomenon can only become a reality through enlightenment and Social Empowerment Advocacy™. Now, when I advocate Social Empowerment Advocacy™, where should we primarily pitch out tents? I think the primary place to pitch our tents is the family institution. The tragedy is that this is an institution that has been neglected for so long for less effective institutions like community and states. Please note that by family here I refer primarily to the nuclear family, which is made of a man and woman and children. Gary Chapman in his book, The Four Seasons of Marriage that, ‘I explored ethnographies compiled by various anthropologists. One conclusive finding of these studies was that marriage between a man and a woman is the central, social building block in every human society, without exception. It is also true that monogamous, lifelong marriage is the universal cultural norm.’

A Ghanaian proverbs says, ‘the ruin of a people begins in the homes of it’s people.’ It goes without saying that the opposite is also an absolute truth and I render it thus: ‘the prosperity of a nation begins in the homes of it’s people.’ The role of family cannot be overemphasised in matters of child protection. The truth of the matter is that children are not vulnerable until the family becomes vulnerable. I believe this is why in child protection matters, parents are referred to as primary care giver.

There are four rings of protection recognised by the UN. They arranged in the following order of importance. The first is family. The second is community. The third is the state and the fourth is the international community. The truth of the matter is that the family is the foundational and cardinal ring, upon which all the other rings rest. It therefore means that the other rings exist to provide needed support for the family to be able to play the roles of child protection and not to replace it. The unfortunate situation today is that many experts, who claim to be interested in child protection, have not only assigned the roles of the family to the other rings, but has watered down the family as just one of the rings. The implication of the foregoing is that the family is not supplied with the necessary support to play the roles, which are cardinal to child protection. Instead the rest of the rings empower themselves to replace the family. Sadly, we forget that there are three pillars of protective environment for children and the number one pillar is the family, followed by customs and norms and legislation. This again reiterates the fact that family as the first pillar is supposed to erect the rest of the pillars.

The family is to erect the pillar of customs and norms and the pillar of the law. The failure of our society in misplacing our priority in the delicate responsibility of child protection is the reason, why the UN in the survey I shared has come to discover that law is not enough. But whether this discovery will lead every stakeholder to go back to the basics, by enthroning and empowering the family institution to protection the child is a symposium discussion for another day. But the much I can conclude now is that if we do not focus on the family institution and if the institution does not arise and take its inevitable place in the protection of our children, worse days are ahead for our children. God help us.

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE. Have an INSPIRED day.

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