Nigeria: traditional and religious leaders stand up for children
KANO, Northern Nigeria, August 2011 - Recently, in Kano, Northern Nigeria, no less 90 than traditional and religious leaders gathered to renew their commitment to provide essential services for children in their jurisdictions.
At a two-day high-level advocacy meeting convened by UNICEF in conjunction with Kano state; emirs, district heads, and traditional and religious leaders had serious discussions around issues affecting children in their geopolitical zone, notably polio, routine immunization, girls’ education and child protection during emergencies.
‘A strategic gathering like this will undoubtedly unveil opportunities to address threats to children’s realization of their fundamental human rights’, said the Secretary to the Kano State Government, Dr. Rabiu Sulaiman Bichi, in his welcome address.
Recognizing that traditional and religious leaders have always played a central part in public life in Nigeria, participants at the high-level meeting were drawn from each of the ten states in the geo-political zones of north east; northwest and north central. These states are the worst affected by continued polio transmission and also have specific challenges to address in girl’s education, child protection and recurrent emergencies.
'It is clear that we are beginning to lose some of the ground covered in the fight against polio. However, this meeting is an opportunity to re-appraise and realign our efforts for the benefit of children'‘It is clear that we are beginning to lose some of the ground covered in the fight against polio. However, this meeting is an opportunity to re-appraise and realign our efforts for the benefit of children’, said Mr. Jacques Boyer, UNICEF Nigeria Deputy Representative.
In a 14-point communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the traditional and religious leaders renewed their commitment to the fight against polio and ensure increased attention to challenges in girls’ education and child protection during emergencies.
To promote the education of girls, the religious and traditional leaders resolved to pursue advocacy visits to policy makers, parents, caregivers, communities and others to raise awareness about the benefits of girls’ education. In a similar vein, they also agreed to sensitize adherents of Islam and Christianity on girls’ education through regular sermons in mosques and churches.
To support polio eradication efforts, the leaders agreed to sustain awareness-raising efforts with parents, caregivers and communities to explain the benefits of polio and routine immunization; and the need ensure full immunization of their children.
Finally, to better protect children during emergencies, participants agreed to form child protection networks at the community level in all the ten states supported by UNICEF. Moreover, they pledged to support the review and subsequent passage of the Child Rights Bill into Law in the six states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano and Yobe. In the four states where the Child Rights Act has already been passed, they committed themselves to ensure the implementation of the Law according to its letter and intent. Nigeria’s national Child Rights Act was passed in 2003 and has now been signed into law in 24 of the country’s 36 states.