Teen hawkers: Child abuse a norm?

Child abuse can be seen as a situation whereby the fundamental human right of a child is neglected. In most cases, the child is exposed to unnecessary hardship and odds in life.

The term “Child abuse” might ring a bell here, but the fight against it is limited to ink on white paper. It appears that we have switched off our consciousness towards this demeaning practise.

Statistics have shown that about eight million children of school age are out of school, meaning that the reason for high level of illiteracy in the country is not far fetched.

kids are maltreated everyday under the guise of ‘discipline’. Just maybe a little ‘F5’ or ‘Command R’ on Child abuse would do.

Below are few of the numerous abuses children in Nigeria experience;

Batter for every little mistake; calling names (big head, olodo etc.), ridicule (always comparing them with other kids), excessive criticism (all he or she does is wrong, never an accolade), street hawking, withholding communication (denial of friendship), denial of education (used as maids or sales personals) and many more.

The flash-light is however on street hawking.

Teen street hawking is not new to the Nigerian scene, as every major road in the country has them like kiosks (Abokis) on every street.

As inhumane as this practise may be, which is actually child abuse, it has become a “normal thing” (We see it and look some place else) in our society.

A recent experience with a street trader left me disturbed about the future of our country. A teenage girl within the ages of 17 and 19, ran to me with a product she was selling ( the product looked like some concoction made by a witch/wizard doctor in a bottle). It wasn’t my first time of encountering such, so my response was “not again” with a smile.

Things got a little awkward though, as this anonymous teen hawker who was supposedly trying to persuade me into buying what I may never have use for, started acting unruly. She dragged my hands towards fondling with her … all in the name of marketing.

In disbelieve and disgust (not that she was dirty), I shoved her aside and walked away wearing a “Whadda…???” expression on my face.

For God sake!!!!!!!! why would a young girl who should be at home with her parents, be trying to market something at 8:00 pm and in that manner? Is she marketing the product or herself? I couldn’t phantom the reason for such desperate exhibition until I had a flashback on a similar incident earlier this year.

At about 10:00 pm on the streets of Victoria Island, Lagos, two young girls came to me for the same purpose.

Being compelled by their marketing prowess and persuasiveness, I decided to purchase whatever it is they were selling and used it as a collateral to ask few questions on why they were out marketing stuffs at such an unholy hour.

According to one of the girls, they had milestones to meet if they were to get their pay (most of the money coming from the number of sales they had made i.e Commission marketing). She also said that they had to complete their target for the day to avoid being fired by their boss, as their job was a means through which they kept life going and settled some bills.

At that time of the day??? Who are these bosses and do they have the well being of these girls in mind or just concerned about their money, not thinking how they go about getting it?

What if these young ladies are raped? what if they are killed for some dubious reasons by dubious humans? What if…??? The dangers in which these teenagers are exposed to are numerous.

The truth is that these girls are not doing these odd jobs because they are loving it, “na condition make crayfish bend”.

It is saddening and alarming because I want to believe that in a country like Nigeria, there are laws guiding against such abuses.

In 2003, the National Assembly passed the Child’s Rights law, as a way of tackling such menace, but it seems not much has been done about street hawking. But as a HOPEFUL (that’s all we Nigerians have in abundance) country, let’s HOPE that one day, street hawking will be abolished and these children will be given a good opportunity of a sound education.

“A faulty foundation, needs no plan for a sky scrapper.”

PS: Although the child abuse law has been passed at the federal level, it is only effective if the State Assembly enacts it. Till date, only 16 out of the country’s 36 States have passed the Act.

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