"I am not raped anymore because people know that we have people who protect us in case of any trouble. I feel more safe and protected than before and I have people to call my own no matter what happens."
When Elizabeth was found wandering the streets in Nigeria's Akwa Iborn state, she had already faced enormous suffering including repeated rapes and being threatened with physical violence on a regular basis. Abandoned by her family after one relative accused her of being a witch, learning to live in one of the specialized accommodation facilities for abandoned children like her has been a challenge although she is slowly making the transition. Her story is hardly unique and there are far too many children like her there.
The belief in child witchcraft is prevalent in many parts of Africa and children like Elizabeth routinely face abuse and persecution as a result. The accusations are fuelled by widespread belief in child witchcraft as well as religious evangelism and the media influence of the Nollywood film industry with its lurid portrayals of child witches. Despite Nigeria passing the Child Rights Act in 1993 designed to outlaw child abuse, witchcraft accusations are not prohibited under the act and there are few real protections for accused children. As well, it is up to each individual Nigerian state to ratify all parts of the act and not all states have done so to date.
One of the primary agencies fighting on the behalf of accused children is Stepping Stones Nigeria. First conceived in 2003, Stepping Stones is now the most effective international child rights agencies working in the Niger Delta. Along with the thousands of abandoned children to be found in Nigeria's streets, Stepping Stones has specifically focused on the countless Nigerian children suffering due to witchcraft accusations and trafficking.
As part of their mission, they have marked December 14 as an international blogging day to publicize their Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT). PACT aims to bring long-term positive social change to vulnerable children in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, particularly those at risk of witchcraft accusations, abuse and trafficking. Their theme is: "Every child has the right to happiness" and they are asking bloggers to help spread the word.
This post is part of a series inspired by the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) campaign, hosted by Stepping Stones Nigeria. Please add your name to the PACT petition to prevent abuse of innocent children in the Niger Delta and visit the site to find out more: www.makeapact.org