Dressed in a mini skirt and skintight top, Adjo hangs out in a bar filled with cigarette smoke. She leans against the counter, trying her best to look sexy. "I like foreign customers best," she says. "They pay well and treat me better than the locals."
Adjo is 11 years old.
Mark shivers in the predawn chill, his broken wooden paddle almost too heavy for him to lift as he helps his coworkers row the canoe. He hasn't eaten for two days but obediently follows his boss' orders to avoid a beating. "I don't like it here," he says.
Mark is only six.
Child abuse is one of the worst problems facing Africa today. High unemployment rates, inadequate social welfare support, changing parenting patterns, low levels of education, high dropout rates at schools, the lack of effective safety and protection services, and the breakdown of family structures all contribute towards the high child abuse statistics.
Recently it has come to light that churches in Nigeria have been involved in the torture and murder of thousands of children accused of being witches. When children are not even safe from those who profess to know God, then something is terribly wrong.
Children, who should be cherished and protected, are instead sold as child brides, sexual slaves, sweatshop labourers, and drug carriers. Children are being murdered for their body parts or raped in the belief that sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS.
- An estimated 200,000 African children are sold as slaves every year. In West Africa alone, there are more than 8,000 girl slaves.
- About 120,000 children are participating in armed conflicts. Some of these children are as young as seven years old.
- Worldwide, one in six children under the age of 14 in developing countries is engaged in child labour. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in three children labours.
- In 2006, 14.1 million girls under the age of 18 in sub-Saharan Africa were married.
- In a culture where abuse is kept secret, it is vital that people start speaking out and begin educating others about it.
TWR plans to produce a programme called God's Precious Little Ones to educate children on the dangers of different types of abuse, and how to recognize the signs of abusers and those who would exploit them. TWR hopes that God's Precious Little Ones will help reduce and eventually curb the injustices against those who are the future of Africa.
God's Precious Little Ones will be a 15-minute discussion programme with child advocates, children, teachers and youth pastors. There will also be special messages from Christian footballers. We hope to start broadcasting the programme in May 2010, shortly before the start of the FIFA World Cup.
Your contribution of R50, R100, R200 or more will help us bring this important programme to the children of Africa.
(Sources: Associated Press, cozay.com, Fight Poverty, rebirth.co.za, UNICEF)
Published: 27 January 2010
(West African children)