In a heartbreaking incident in Gadon Kaya Damatsiri, a neighbourhood in Kano State, Nigeria, 6-year-old Sherifat Usman experienced an act of violence.
Her neighbour, Fatima Malam, allegedly stabbed her multiple times in a fit of rage. The reason? A dispute over Sherifat’s father advising Fatima’s husband to take another wife.
As the story spread, the community felt shocked and worried. But amid this challenging situation, there was a small glimmer of hope—a strong call to take action against violence towards children in Nigeria.
“It was a scene of terror. I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” described Aisha Mohammed, the Facebook user who shared a video of the incident.
Acknowledging that violence against children is a profoundly complex problem is important. Sherifat Usman’s story serves as a reminder that raising awareness, preventing such incidents, and providing support are crucial steps in protecting the well-being of Nigeria’s children.
Like Kano, like Imo
In another tragic incident in Imo State, an unidentified woman stabbed a baby girl to death. The victim, a five-year-old girl, was seen being carried out of the compound by her distraught mother, seemingly on her way to the hospital.
A video of the incident went viral on social media, showing the residents interrogating the suspect. In the video, the residents angrily questioned the lady, asking why she would stab a child.
Violence against children rife
According to a report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund or UNICEF, “over half of children first experienced physical violence between the ages of 6 and 11 years, while approximately 1 in 10 children’s first experience is under the age of 5 years. Perpetrators are overwhelmingly people the children know.”
“We need to break the silence and create an environment where children feel safe to speak up,” emphasises Aisha Mohammed. “By giving children a voice empowers them to seek help and prevent future incidents.”
In addition to raising awareness, providing accessible support services is crucial for victims of violence. Counselling, legal aid, and rehabilitation programs are vital in helping survivors heal and rebuild their lives.
More data from UNICEF reveals that “abuse in all its forms are a daily reality for many Nigerian children, and only a fraction ever receive help. Six out of every ten children experience some form of violence. Of the children who reported violence, fewer than five out of a 100 received any form of support.”
Need to do more
By tailoring the services of accessible support to address the unique needs of child victims, we can ensure their safety and well-being take precedence.
As we reflect on Sherifat’s harrowing experience, we find solace in the swift response of the authorities. Fatima Malam, the suspect, has been apprehended, reflecting the determination to seek justice for victims and hold perpetrators accountable.
“The scars may be invisible, but the pain is real,” said SP Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, the spokesperson of the Kano State Police Command. “We need to invest in specialised counselling and support for child victims, helping them overcome the trauma and break the cycle of violence.”
Collaboration between law enforcement agencies, social services, and community organisations is critical to effectively combating violence against children. Engaging communities in these efforts fosters a sense of collective responsibility for child protection.
Nigeria’s government also plays a vital role in this fight. By increasing financial allocations and implementing comprehensive legislation that addresses all forms of violence against children, the government can demonstrate a firm commitment to deterring future acts of violence.
Sherifat’s story reminds us of the difficulties that Nigeria is dealing with. However, it also inspires us to be strong and determined. If we work together as individuals and communities and encourage children to speak out, we can build a better future where children can have the help and resources they need to succeed.