By Bianca Iboma
Dr Ama is the Founder and Executive Director of Live Abundantly Empowerment Initiative’s, an educationist who has been in the frontline of the advocacy for the welfare of vulnerable women and children. She has particularly campaigned against religious and cultural practice that discriminate against women and girls.
In this interview she speaks about the rights of children and mistreatment of women among other issues.
In recent times, we have seen an upsurge in sexual crimes against children. How do we end sexual exploitation and abuse against children?
We have to be honest and acknowledge that there is a cultural and religious bias against women. That issue must be addressed, and I believe it starts with education.We are talking about human rights and are entailed to certain things that make us live together.
Sexual abuse of women and children have occurred for ages, we are hearing more about it now because people are talking about it, although it is difficult to bear when someone is violated but education is key.
There is the need for the society to begin to address the issue of sexual violence by doing more of advocacy and holding public enlightenment programmes that can help victims and curb offenders.
Anyone who sexually violate a person should be made to face the law regardless of status.I want a situation where there is a national sex offender register.
When our society established a sex offenders register there would be reduction on the incident of sexual and gender based violence against women and children.
If we decide as a nation to established it and do mandated reporting, then monitor perpetrators and everyone who has engaged in such crime within the society would be afraid to engaged in such crime within the society would be afraid to do it.
Once their name is on that register everybody will begin to see it.
Nobody wants their name on such registry which is available to all the agencies.
The embassies can see and deny people access to their country because they don’t want you to get there and violate women and children. Being listed in their register will be a stigma. For this reason nobody wants their profile on a crime register.
I think it is important for our society, to have a sex offender register in order to reduced the rate of sexual molestation. People should be deployed to gather the data on sex offenders across the country.The data should include their photographs.
What do you think should be done so that the justice system of our society protects the rights of children?
It is painful to hear a seven- to- eight years old wokes up at the crack of the dawn to assist his parents to provide food for the family. And there is this unfortunate occurrence, the child is knocked down by a vehicle (Hit and Run) just because he has to help his family survive. It is heart breaking, because that is child labour, to have a child of that age hawk.
We have Child Rights Act. Public enlightenment should be done to educate people.
The society should be made more conscious of the rights of children. The laws need to be implemented.
The highest number of cases of sexual and gender based violence, occurs in the state. Neglect is a form of abuse. So more public enlightenment should be done on radio, TV, sign post to say it is illegal for children to hawk.
How did you develop passion for campaigning for the welfare of the vulnerable?
As a teenager I had a friend who was an autistic patient and I was fond of him. We used to watch cartoon, together, held hands and generally maintained a friendly relationship. I never saw is complex developmental condition as a limit to the way I related with him.
To me he was different but it didn’t really matter to us.
I showed him love and affection. I ensured he was treated well.
Suddenly, I could not find my friend , I began to ask questions and no one told me anything.I went round to inquire about him and realized that he had been sent to a home in England. I asked for him again after sometime because I wanted to see my friend again.
What became of him I don’t know but there was a time in Nigeria when children with psychological differences were hidden.
They were seen as abomination, retribution for wicked act.That abnormal child is different from another child in the family.The way such children were treated disturbed me.People did not speak to them.
I was born into a family where I was free to speak, to express myself and I couldn’t understand when certain issues were hidden. When a child is abuse in the home no one is talking about it.
Some children cannot express themselves because when they speak they are told to shut up.As I began to speak about it my uncle told me to keep quiet.
I thought about this 37 year ago, to speak for the voiceless. Those who could not speak up for themselves. I wanted a platform for them to do something, have always known it would come to existence but did not exactly know the time. It is precious for me.
It also has to do with the perception of male children.
You reach a point in your life when you take a decision but I have always known that I will established this initiative. My greatest concern is to make them fulfilled their purpose.
I love to see the smiles on children’s faces and there is something precious about children when they are told by someone that they are important,that they matter in life.That was how the idea of Live Abundantly Empowerment Initiative came to be.
It was an idea conceived 30 years ago.I decided to make the voices of children to be heard through this platform– all those children that are voiceless.
Now there is other issue, which the security agencies must deal with. The safety and security of children should be paramount.
Our security forces should ensure that they stop vehicles that convey children that are standing in a bus.I am not happy with the way some schools squeeze and pack children like sardines in school buses.
It is not good for their safety. Parents need to be more aware and conscious of their children’s safety. All of us need to collaborate, to ensure the safety of school children. We must all work together: security agencies, schools, stakeholders, parents and the communities where the schools are located. It should be a concerted effort.
What is your take on the mistreatment of women,do you consider it as a human rights abuse?
The mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse. The world is never going to change if the people responsible for oppression are allowed to continue. The men who don’t believe in equality/oppression need to confront other men. We have seen on a global scale that, men in general,don’t listen or give credit to women.
This is largely a male problem and needs serious confrontation. The legal and medical systems are also atrociously biased and if men are not punished adequately for the crimes they commit against women, things will not change.
Women should not be responsible for the entirety of the burden to resolve an issue which was created by men. We need a system that no longer defends the “male privileges” and stronger positive men that are not afraid to defend and support women along the way.
Women should know their responsibility and challenge themselves. They recognised and contribute to the current status quo and not be afraid to stand out in defence of women.
The world is never going to change if the people responsible for oppression are allowed to continue. The men who don’t believe in inequality/ oppression need to confront other men.
We have seen that on a global scale, men in general, don’t listen or give credit to women. This is largely a male problem and needs serious confrontation.
The legal and medical systems are also atrociously biased and if men are not punished adequately for the crimes they commit against women, things will not change.
Women should not be responsible for the entirety of the burden to resolve an issue which was created by men. We need a system that no longer defends the “Male privilege” and stronger positive men that aren’t afraid to defend and support women along the way.
What lessons has life taught you?
I have learnt a lot of lessons about life. I have learnt to be compassionate. I love to look at person, smile and ask them how they are. I have learnt to think of the society’s good and contribute to it development.
I have learnt to respect people and shown them that I don’t have to take people for granted. I have learnt to give people smile at the start of the day.
I have learnt to love and be considerate.I have learnt to see life as opportunity and value every being, I don’t take for granted the people in my life, especially children because of their innocence. I am incredible drawn to children they inspire me.
There is this level of innocence, honesty and smile that children posses, you see it in their eyes, the way they express themselves gives me inner strength. The way they play together. I can play together with children just because they are children.
I have learnt to love my life, tenacity, perseverance that is more of nature. I have learnt a to cherish life. I don’t do things because the person is around.
You are a woman of steel. What is the source of your inner strength?
My inner strength comes from life adventures, who I am. My parents, relations those who I come in contact with that are in my life. When you are born a lot of prayers and well wishes comes from people without you having an idea how you would pass through life.
You struggle through certain things, face challenges. The challenges, I went through at my childhood all helped me as a person to form who I am; there is no core role,through many facets.My parents, relations they contributed to developing me into a strong woman.. They all helped me as a person to formed who I am and who I would be, there is a core role, through many facets. My parents, relations they contributed to developing me into a strong woman.
Growing up as a child who influenced you and at the moment?
My father, I have to say so because he recognised that every individual has a specific purpose in life. He made so much impact in my life.
Build the confidence in me and was able to made me realised as an individual you have to fulfil your various purpose. He made me to identify things to the best of our knowledge and we realised our dream.
He made me recognise that as individuals it does not matter if you are a boy or a girl. He ensured everyone get equal rights whether you are a boy or a girl. Education was given to us equally.
While my mother taught me about perseverance and inner strength , siblings that are very close to me and people I encountered encouraged me to be a better person.
Also Nelson Madela of blessed memory and children influence me.