Monday, September 22, 2008

Stepping Stones Nigeria update

From Stepping Stones Nigeria:
Dear Stepping Stones Nigeria Supporter,

I just thought that I would take this opportunity to update you with some
of the exciting events of the previous few weeks. As you may know SSN has
been campaigning for the rights of so called child “witches” in Akwa Ibom
State since November 2006. This has been carried out through our Prevent
Abandonment of Children Today (PACT) campaign and has involved organising
two international symposiums, TV and radio adverts and regular visits to
government officials to advocate for the rights of the child. Most
recently SSN organised a child rights rally through the streets of Uyo,
which culminated in the children handing over a petition to the Governor
of the state demanding that he acted to protect the lives of these
innocent children. In addition to this SSN also paid UNICEF a visit in
order to make them aware of this terrible situation and request for their
assistance in the fight against child abandonment due to witchcraft
stigma.

One of the consistent demands that SSN has made is for the Akwa Ibom State
government to enact the Child Rights Act (CRA). Despite the Federal
Republic of Nigeria enacting the CRA at federal level in 2003, Akwa Ibom
was still one of the 22 states still awaiting to enact it. Without the CRA
in place it is very difficult to protect the rights of the children, many
of whom have been tortured in churches, abandoned by their parents, set on
fire, trafficked etc. Indeed through working with our Nigerian partner,
CRARN, we had tried unsuccessfully to prosecute a number of parents and
pastors. Without the legal framework to support us this was a seemingly
impossible task.

Thankfully on 6th September we received the news that the Akwa Ibom State
government has finally enacted the CRA. SSN sees this as a giant stride in
our efforts to protect, save and transform the lives of stigmatised
children in Akwa Ibom State. Whilst we cannot fully attribute the
enactment of this law to the efforts of SSN or CRARN, it is clear that we
have contributed a great deal to bringing about this positive change. As a
small charity, with limited resources, SSN feels very proud at this
accomplishment and now looks forward to working with all stakeholders to
ensure that the CRA is fully implemented and that parents or pastors that
are guilty of violating child rights are held to account. Please do visit
our website - www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/news - for the latest press
coverage of these issues.

In a separate development, whilst carrying out research into the needs of
abandoned children in Oron LGA, our sister NGO – Stepping Stones Nigeria
Child Empowerment Foundation (SSNCEF) – recently uncovered some very
disturbing findings. A shadowy religious group, known as the “peace
sisters”, had been found to have rounded up between 200-300 abandoned
children from the streets on the pretence that they were taking them to
their centre in Aba for “deliverance”. SSN and SSNCEF were already aware
that this group had been arrested in 2007 on suspicion of trafficking of
children and, as soon as we unearthed these findings, we quickly leapt
into action. Letters were sent and numerous calls were made to the federal
government anti-trafficking agency, NAPTIP, government, police and UNICEF
demanding that urgent action should be taken to investigate the “peace
sisters”. After two weeks of high level advocacy, SSN is happy to
announce that on 12th September 2008, 5 members of this group were
arrested and were found to be imprisoning 36 children in their “church”.
SSN and SSNCEF strongly believe that these children were destined to be
trafficked, although where exactly to we do not know. The investigation
into the “peace sisters” activities is still continuing and numerous
children are still unaccounted for. SSN sees this case as a huge success
for the work of SSNCEF and hopes that this will be the first of many
positive interventions carried out by our sister NGO.

SSN now feels that there is a great deal of positive momentum behind our
work and we very much look forward to working with key stakeholders, such
as government, churches and traditional rulers, in the near future to help
develop sustainable strategies to dealing with the child “witch”
phenomenon and ensuring that all children in Akwa Ibom state have access
to their rights. This momentum will undoubtedly continue with the
broadcast of the "Dispatches" documentary that SSN has been working on -
The Witch Children of Nigeria - on 12th November at 9pm on Channel 4.
International supporters may watch the film online at
www.channel4.com/watch_online.

We hope that you share our joy about these positive developments and wish
to thank you for your continuing support for SSN’s work.

With best wishes,

Gary Foxcroft

--
Programme Director

Stepping Stones Nigeria

www.steppingstonesnigeria.org

Protecting, Saving and Transforming the Lives of Vulnerable and
Disadvantaged Children in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria

Registered UK and Wales charity number 1112476
Company number 05413970

3 comments:

Impact said...

Gary, the work you are doing is truly inspirational - You are making a huge difference to the lives of innocent children.

I would encourage all people reading this to follow the channel 4 online link to discover this terrible travesty that is going on as we speak to children and babies being branded as witches in Nigeria.

Please watch this - Everyone in the world is reporting about the "credit crunch" and the world financial situation - however let this program put this into prospective for you - We think we have problems?

So a huge thanks to Gary for what he is doing, he is doing the work and making the difference that other people do not think is possible or think that any contribution from them will make a difference - this proves the opposite - one person can achieve so much for vulnerable and innocent children.

Saving just one child from this horror can have no value place up on it.

Thanks


Cy

Paul said...

I have only recently been made aware of the great work that Stepping Stones Nigeria does. I have been very moved by the stories and well done for all your work. I am a keen hiker and some of my friends and i are going to ebdure a massive challenge in the UK with all proceeds going direct to Stepping Stones Nigeria. You can see at http://www.justgiving.com/stompforsteppingstones

Thankyou. Paul

Paul said...

www.justgiving.com/stompforsteppingstones