By Ola Ajayi, Ibadan – Eminent professors who attended the launch of a non-governmental organisation, One Voice Initiative for Women in Africa at the University of Ibadan have called on leaders in the African continent to stem the tide of modern slavery which is increasing on a daily basis.
Professor Adeyemi Aderibigbe, Chairman of the occasion and Prof. Olabisi Olasehinde-Williams, the guest lecturer and other participants at the event described as unacceptable the way vulnerable children and women are being abused across the world particularly in Africa.
Prof Olasehinde-Williams, while speaking on the topic, “The African child as endangered specie: Emerging issues,” painted a chilling picture of how over 400,000 ships loaded with slaves were crossing from Africa through the Atlantic ocean to North and South America between 1549 and 1860.
She added that more than four million people were carried away during the slave trade while more than two million people died during the voyage through untold hardship they were subjected to.
After telling the audience which included academics, undergraduate students of the institution and some secondary schools, she lamented that contrary to expectations that slave trade had been abolished in 1860, it has now been modernised.
She regretted that after Asia, Africa is the next continent where modern enslavement of the girl child thrives.
The Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Ilorin noted further that over 46 million people particularly children are in modern bondage in other parts of the world.
“Unfortunately, modern slavery is very similar to the transatlantic slave trade. Modern slavery includes false labour, underaged girls forced into marriage, prostitution. 45.8million are in modern slavery globally especially in Asia and Africa,”she said.
Giving further statistics, the don regretted to say that Nigeria ranks 23 in the world among 167 countries where violence against the girl child thrives.
“875,000 of Nigerians are in one form of modern slavery or the other in sub Sahara Africa. Children especially girls are the most endangered. Virtually every nation in Africa engages in modern slavery.
Causes of modern slavery, according to him, include poverty, insecurity, unemployment, ignorance and traditional rearing practice. Those are the reasons African child is vulnerable.
She advised the NGO to adopt the preventive, protective and punitive approach in its fight against modern slavery.
She further urged the organisation to do victim tracking, needs assessment, free help lines, rehabilitation, empowerment and reintegration.
In her own comments, the Executive Director, One Voice Initiative, for women empowerment in Africa, Ms Omolara Olatunbosun expressed how the NGO funded the education of hapless girls who lost their parents noting such loss should not create barriers to their education.
Ms. Olatunbosun said she would improve on public enlightenment which she kick-started from Egbeda Local Government noting that she would extend the advocacy to rural areas where the practice is more prevalent.
She also lamented that despite repeated advocacy against it, gender preference for male children and the undesirability of female children still persists in many parts of the world including African nations.
“From ante-natal to old age, different sets of violence are experienced by the girl child in Nigeria which could hinder them from attaining their full potentials and the story is the same all over Africa and some parts of the world.
“As a result, some of the problems faced by the girl child from the ante-natal stage range from rejection to neglect, abuse, infanticide, female genital mutilation, child marriage, forced marriage, child sex, sex slavery, economically induced sex, exploitation and marginalisation.”
With the subsistence of all these challenges, she reasoned, that there is need to sensitize the public and in togetherness proffer means to exterminate them for further development of our nations and for realisation of a fairer world,” she said.
On the abduction of Chibok girls, she urged the Federal Government to show more seriousness in freeing the girls from the captivity of the insurgents.
She listed some of the objectives of her non-governmental organisation as restoration of self dignity, lost hope, self respect and self worth to girls and women who have been victims of rape, teenage pregnancy, neglect and marginalisation which have resulted in low esteem, depression and truncated ambition.