A Better draft. Please Comment
Hi, here is a much better draft of the one I finally chose. Please comment.
Stop Slavery! Save the Children!
I believe the children are the future. Whether they are so poor that they starve or so rich they lack nothing. They are the future. They must all be protected if the future is to be better than today, or if there is to be a future at all.
The future does not belong to only the financially privileged children. It belongs to all children. In Nigeria an estimated 15 million children under the age of 14 are working across the country. according to Unicef May 2005
These children work in various capacities where they are exposed to situations that they are not equipped to handle at their tender ages. Many of such children work as “house helps” in homes across the country. From this point, I choose not to refer to such children as house helps but child slaves. This is what they really are.
The unfortunate truth is that many of these children are employed to help give the children of the privileged a more comfortable life. Is it fair to deprive one child of her childhood in order to make that of another more comfortable?
The children are taken from their parents, often as young as nine by a Madam or Mister. Basically a business person who pays the parents an agreed sum to take the children away for servitude in the major Nigerian cities often thousands of miles away from the children’s homes. Their parents have no idea where exactly they are. The children cannot go back home even if they want to. They are alone. Alone in a strange land, in a strange family working from dusk to dawn. Cooking, cleaning, pounding and after a full days labour often sleeping on the cold hard floor. They are slaves, exiled from their homes with no way back, bound to the whims and caprices of their masters and mistresses. If they refuse to obey either willfully or because their frail shoulders are weary, too tired to carry the burden of yet another task, they are beaten, whipped, or starved.
In spite of legislations such as the 2006 ammendment of the 'Act establishing the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters' which stated that Nigerians who employ and keep children under the age of 18 years as domestic servants will now spend five years behind the bars if caught and prosecuted, this worrisome trend continues largely unabated. This law makes it illegal for children to work in domestic capacity in the homes of non family members. So far only 16 states have adopted this law out of the 36 states. Tragically, even where the law has been adopted, citizens are largely unaware that such a law exists. There are no measures in place to ensure compliance with the laws. In fact the slavery continues as though there were no laws at all.
The Child Slavery market is lucrative for all involved, except the child. The child merchants are paid hundreds of thousands in naira per annum for the child. They give a small percentage to the child’s parents. As for the family into which the child is sold, they get cheap subservient labour.
In few households, these children are actually treated like human beings and even sent to school. In such families, it is as though the children have been adopted. They perform domestic tasks but are treated with dignity and consideration. Such households are exceptions to the rule.
The Yorubas say it is the egg that becomes a Cock. Yet the nature of the egg is fragile, vulnerable and can be easily broken. It is the same with children. They are the egg, the cock is the future of humanity. In a hundred years all people called adults today will be dead or dying. It is the children of today that will be the future. We must protect them, we must not bask in the false security of yard full of cocks and mash eggs under our feet.
The laws in place already must be implemented. The government must see this as a primary responsibility. Parameters must be put in place to arrest and punish to serve as a deterrent for others. The issue of poverty must be addressed, it is often the reason why parents send their children into servitude in the first place.
It is an economic law that where there is no demand there will eventually be no supply. We Nigerians must stop employing children to be slaves in our households. It is criminal and cruel to deprive these children of their childhood. Stop slavery, save the children, save the future.