ByÂ Mercy Thompson
The reigning Carnival Calabar Queen, Mayen Ekpo, has called for gender friendly laws to prevent violence against women. Ekpo who stressed that recent statistics have revealed growing proportions of gender violence in Nigeria added that stiffer penalties should be put in place for such offenders.
She observed that in recent time, Cross River state had grappled with a spate of abandoned babies, most of whom were from young teenage mothers.
â€œWe need the cooperation of everybody in this including the Government. Let us join hands to fight against child abuse and reduce teenage pregnancies.â€
Addressing participants during the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Day in Calabar recently, Ekpo noted that the day is usually celebrated in the United States on May 5. As a matter of fact, the entire month of May is set aside for a series of campaigns and educational activities across communities in the US. Although Teenage Pregnancy Day is not celebrated in Nigeria, its importance was not lost in Cross River State.
EkpoÂ is also the spokesperson for Motherâ€™s Against Child Abandonment (MACA), an initiative of Obioma Liyel-Imoke, wife of the Cross River State Governor.
Also speaking, the Director,Â Mother and Child cluster, Regina Nwadiaro, was of the opinion that given Nigeriaâ€™s own alarming rate of teenage pregnancies it might be a good idea to adopt a similar practice of marking Teenage Pregnancy Day in Nigeria as well.
Nwadiora also pointed out that the problem of communication gap due to the fact that most parents and society at large shy away from discussing issues of sexuality openly with their children.
According to her, poor communication when combined with ignorance leads to grave consequences.
She explained that â€œA teenager is anybody aged between 13-19 years old.Â This period is usually characterised by dramatic physiological changes, raging hormones as well as impulsiveness. It is not uncommon at this stage to want to experiment or even succumb to peer pressure and influences. A recent finding revealed that about 20 percentÂ teenage mothers are from poor backgrounds. It is a well known fact that girls from poorer backgrounds are more likely to fall victim to unwanted pregnancies in their teenage years than their more affluent counterpartsâ€.
Representative from the Ministry of Women Affairs Cross River State, Mrs.Â Ekwele Agube emphasised the need to tackle this problem at its primary source blaming it on ignorance.
â€œMost of these young girls give in to irresponsible older men many of whom are already married, as a result of abject poverty. If however, we stress the importance of the girl child education we would have gone a long way in curbing this trend as the empowered girl is able to make more informed choicesâ€
He added that mothers should not also be left out in the scheme of things. â€œMothers play a vital role in their childrenâ€™s lives, a more empowered mother is more likely to make wise decisions that would protect her daughterâ€™s interest,â€