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Child Abuse Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by EDITH, Benin Jul 8, 2008
Health   Short Stories
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Child abuse has been defined as an act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that result in the physical or emotional harm, sexual, or exploitation of a child, or which places the child in a harmful situation. In my own words, it means ill treatment or maltreating of a child physically or emotionally.

The employment of under–aged children in households as domestic helps is increasing in urban areas in Benin. Some are lucky to be employed by God fearing people who take care and give them an opportunity for a future. But many are deprived and abused psychologically, physically or sexually while working under demeaning climate of exploitative labour. It is a common feature seeing children of varying ages hawking wares in the markets and along the streets in cities or towns. Efforts by the government to stop that through the introduction of free primary and secondary education seem to make no impact. The activities of some welfare organisations aimed at stopping that also have proved ineffective.

When a child is given out as a maid to a rich family, that child is subjected to untold hardship. They are given out as maids because their parents cannot afford to feed them properly, cloth them and educate them. Through their work as maids, they earn their living. Lack of economic resources; make it difficult for some parents to take appropriate care of their children until they become independent. As a result, the children may need to work to help and support the family financially. This often means that they have to drop out of school, reducing their chances of making it better in life.
Some of these children are being harassed sexually by the master or father of the house. Some become pregnant, and are thrown out of the house to suffer. Because of these problems, some end up living on the streets, snatching people’s bags for survival. While some turn to armed robbery and prostitution. Some of them die mysteriously in their master's house with no explanation given as to the cause of their death. These have put many families into feud and agonies.

In some rich homes, the children relax, eat and enjoy good meals. They attend good schools and cloth well. While the young maids toil day and night. A young girl of 9 or 10 years is made to work long hours daily, with no rest and poor feeding. She dresses shabbily and is given no formal or informal education. When the child falls sick due to exhaustion, instead of taking adequate care by taking her to the hospital for treatment, self – medication is given to her and this may endanger her life.

A 10 year old girl was sent on an errand and unfortunately was raped to death by hoodlums. The madam did not even care to look for her but concluded that she has taken her money and gone back to her parents. She started spreading the rumour that her maid has disappeared with her money. After five days, the police discovered the decaying corpse of the girl and the woman was arrested for questioning. A child of 8years was asked to buy soap in a nearby market but along the road she lost the money (1000cfa or $2). On returning home after a fruitless search for the lost money, her madam accused her of misappropriating the money. To the consternation of the people around, the woman poured the hot oil she was using to fry bean cakes on her. The girl was badly burnt. The incident was reported to the police and the woman was arrested, prosecuted and jailed.

Children between the ages of 8 – 14 years are asked to hawk biscuits, sweets, pure water, and pop – corn etc on the streets. This expose them to risks of being knocked down by moving vehicles or being kidnapped by ritual killers. Eighty percent of such children have suffered or have been exposed to physical, emotional or sexual abuse. This may have a long lasting negative effect on them. An abused child suffers psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem. The person he/she is staying with may be aware of such problems without giving him/her adequate help.

When the child is permitted to visit her parents, she may use the opportunity to narrate her predicament to them. Reasonable parents will not allow their children to go back there again. While wicked and uncaring parents out of greed for money may ask them to keep quiet and go back. A child under such condition may decide to run away from home rather than suffer hardships or may still go back to continue with the tasks. Many children don’t have a say when it involves making decisions.

A little boy I use to see around our compound was nearly lynched to death one day. I had to intervene to save him. On inquiry, I was told that he vandalised a nearby parked car removing the water wiper. How much does this water wiper cost, 1000cfa or $2? After settling the problem, I questioned the boy to find out why he did such a thing. The story I heard from him was very pathetic. He said the father was imprisoned for some reason he did not know. The mother married another man who could not afford to take care of him and did not want to see him around. The little boy took to the streets, begging, pilfering or stealing as the case may be for survival. He looked hungry, tattered, dirty and unkempt. I gave him some food and asked him to go and clean up. I decided to follow up the boy‘s story and discovered that the father was convicted and imprisoned for stealing a motor bike. The law of Benin stipulated that a child/children belong to the man. A woman has no right to claim or take custody of her child/children in case of any separation/divorce. However, the boy and the sister were later taken to a government owned home for proper care and training. This kind of situation endangers a child’s life. The child may join a bad group that may lead to his/her destruction.

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Writer Profile

I am a Nigerian journalist presently residing in Cotonou Benin Republic. I completed my secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria.

I worked in Champion Newspapers Limited from 1992 to 1994 as a news reporter. During my stay at Champion Newspapers, I was exposed to basic newsrooms operations, including coverage of field assignments such as newsgathering and generation from beats like economy, business reporting, politics, feature and opinion writing and news monitoring on radio and television. I displayed a great amount of skill in all my assignments.

I worked with the Federal Radio Co-operation of Nigeria (FRCN) as a scriptwriter, presenter and a producer of Children’s Programme, Today’s Woman, Health Corner and Radio Drama from 1994 to 1999.

I later joined my family in Cotonou Benin Republic in 1999. Due to the love I have for my career, I did not allow it to die or sweep away. I continued from where I stop in Nigeria.

Presently I am working with Capp Fm 99.6 as a presenter in Cotonou Benin Republic. I joined Capp Fm 99.6 in October 1999. Contributing Editor Les femmes magazine South Africa.
I am a member of African Economics Editors Network (AEEN) and International Women Media Foundation (IWMF) USA.
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