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UNICEF Organises Concert For Osun Children To Mark International Day Of The African Child

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..Celebrity Woli Agba Decorated As Ambassador Against FGM

The United Nations Children’s Fund, in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation; Value Female Network (VFN) and the Ministry of Women, Children & Social Affairs in Osun State have organised a concert for about 600 Osun children in commemoration of the Internation Day of The African Child.

UNICEF gathered about 600 children at Freedom Park, Osogbo, last Friday to celebrate and enlighten them on harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage that they need to speak out against.

There several activities including dance, games, talents show, and other presentations to charge up the young participants. A popular comical musical artiste, Woli Agba, was one of the guests who addressed and entertained the children at the glamorous programme which commemorated the annual International Day of the African Child on every June 16. No fewer than 573 children gathered for the event while adults including parents, onlookers and motorcycle operators were 246, totalling 819 people reached.

There were talks by experts including Adewumi Yaagboyaaju, VFN’s gender officer and Zainab Agbolade, on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Child Abuse and Gender Inequality among others.

Welcoming the children, the Executive Director of VFN, Dr Costly Aderibigbe, urged the participants to be advocates against harmful practices, especially Female Genital Mutilation which is prevalent in the state (46.5% NDHS, 2018) adding that they should not allow anyone to trample on their rights.

She said the children should know that they are costly and so, should stand against FGM, child marriage and other violations of their human rights.

Addressing the children, UNICEF FGM consultant for Southwest, Mrs Aderonke Olutayo, sensitised them on harmful practices they need to speak out against. She said, Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage and trafficking among others are violation of their rights and that they should be aware and voice out against them.

Speaking on the essence of the concert, Mrs Olutayo said, “We celebrate Osun children and make them feel relaxed, play games and enjoy themselves. Afterwards, we let them know some traditional harmful practices and how they can be protected from them.

“There is a lot of awareness creation among children and they know they can actually go to school and become doctors, nurses, engineers and other things they want to be rather than being on the streets and hawking. Through our interventions, many children now know some traditional harmful practices and how they can avoid them by speaking out against any violation of their rights either Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, or somebody is putting pressure on them to take alcohol or any kind of drugs. There is a lot of awareness going on and the impacts are being felt.

“For instance, Osun State had highest FGM prevalence rate of 77 percent according to National Demographic Health Survey in 2003 but because of the interventions and awareness creation by UNICEF and other organisations, Osun State now 4th position with 46.5 percent, this is significant.

“UNICEF has been working in community level, churches, mosques, schools to pass the message across on these harmful practices.”

On the rise in vices among minors, the UNICEF consultant called for collective efforts of government, parents, religious leaders, schools and other stakeholders to stem the tide.

She said, “There must be a collective efforts to tackling social menace among children. It starts from home, if a child gets positive values from home. We need every family to rise up to come together and ensure children are given ight values and a safe environment to develop good morals. Once we give them good attitudes as stakeholders, then we expect that there will be a good behavioural change. If we have a change in one life, it can actually radiate over others. Now, we have over 600 children at this programme, if they go home, we believe that they will pass all what they have learnt to their peers.

“We are working with the policy of if you see something, say something. We are telling the children to speak up when their rights are to be violated. We have trained police men, traditional rulers, religious leaders, school teachers and administrators, so, children can report any act of rights violation to any of them. This is part of the system we have put the place to ensure that children live in safe environment where their rights are protected.”

Also speaking, the FGM Coordinator in the Osun State Ministry of Health, Mrs Toyin Adelowokan, advised parents to give their children sex education and avail them to their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

According to her, “We are using ‘Catch them Young’ approach. We want to teach the children the right thing so that they can grow with it. Parents need to train and teach children on sex education so that they can know their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Even in decision making at home, parents should carry their children along. When parents are changing their children’s school due to financial constraints, they need to discuss with the child and the reason. If parents decide to do things without given their children sense of belonging, that’s the way they will grow and it won’t be a good thing.

“Parents should teach their children equally and they should not make them feel envious of one another,” she added.

One of the highlights of the programme was that children took out time to stamp out FGM in Osun State and they learned their voice to the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation in Osun State by printing against FGM with their hands.

Another highlight is that Celebrity Woli Agba was decorated with a badge that signifies his commitment to the movement for eradication of FGM in Nigeria. This movement aims to recruit five million people in Osun, Ekiti, Oyo, Ebonyi and Imo and that makes one million per state. These five million people will form a group of ambassadors against FGM and they would make pledge and commit to ending FGM in Nigeria.

Woli Agba joined the movement and was decorated before the children and onlookers and older adults who were present at the event.

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