Khadijah Suleiman Saulawa also known as Queen Dijah is an undergraduate. While still in her twenties, she is already looking at what she can do for her society and not what the society can do for her.
The founder of Queen Dijah Women and Children Awareness Initiative, a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, out to look at issues surrounding the well-being of children and women in the rural areas and beyond, is particular because they are the most vulnerable in the society.
WHAT informed your decision to form this NGO?
I discovered some irregularities and gaps that need to be filled to ensure a safe society for us all. I felt there is need to correct those irregularities through sensitization and awareness creation. The irregularities are in various types and forms. Take for instance, the issue of rape which is rampant in Katsina state. We are going to be working around these to ensure we have a safe society for the women and children.
I formed the NGO to kick against all forms of violence against women and children. We will be working around issues of rape, women into drugs, water, sanitation and hygiene, maternal and child health, malnutrition among others.
What concerning rape do you intend to work on?
I’m out to fill in gaps where people are not forthcoming in reporting cases of rape for fear of the unknown, stigmatization and not knowing the relevant office or authorities to table the matter to. For instance, in Katsina, the police once said it recorded 30 rape cases of minors between a period of a month. And those numbers are just the ones that were reported.
We have quite a large number of them happening but the parents chose to keep it to themselves. The cases you heard about are the ones that maybe somehow have leaked to the neighbours or someone close to the family got wind about it and the only option left was to report it to the police. In a situation where they keep to themselves, then it becomes a risk. How?
Take for instance a child raped and needs to see the doctor for proper check and examination but because of fear of stigmatization, the parents kept mute. The child might have contracted diseases which ordinarily the doctors’ checkup would have detected in its early stages but the child will now suffer for it in the future.
Like I said earlier, some of them might not have an idea of the appropriate authority or office to report such matters to and it will be addressed amicably if they are afraid of going to the police for fear of the unknown. At this point, I think there is need for government to create an office saddled with that responsibility. But as it stands now, we want to break the stumbling block and break the silence on reporting of rape cases. We will create awareness to the parents to report their rape cases to us; we would take it up and get justice done.
On the other hand, these will go a long way to assist the law on rapists. I learnt a drafting committee saddled with responsibility of drafting a child rights act in the state has completed their work and it suggested death sentence for rapists of minors below nine years.
That is a welcome development but I think there is more to make the law work effectively. It is only when the parents report their rape cases that the law can catch up with the offender. But where a kind of confidentiality is built in the people that they can confide in us to get justice for their children without any fear of the unknown and stigmatization, then we would have a smooth ride: the parents will be willing to report their rape cases and the law will take its full course on the offenders.
Now let’s look at women into drugs, why and where lies the problem?
These days, more women are into drug taking. And it was revealed that men are the major cause why women are into drug taking. Most women nowadays hardly get the attention of their husbands. Mingling with friends who are already deep into the intake of drugs, they are convinced that once they take it, all worries and troubles in their life will be a thing of the past.
And so they are convinced to take and before you know it they become used to it so when their husbands are not around they don’t worry because they have what will keep them company.
Many women started this way and gradually it become part of them. I feel it is something to worry about because if nothing is done, the society will be in a mess not because of anything but because the generations to come will be a generation of drug addicts.
A situation where the mother consumes drugs, who controls the children from also going astray. So you can see that it is something that requires urgent attention and we have to start doing doing something about it now.
Another aspect your NGO is to work on are issues surrounding Water, Sanitation and Hygiene- what are your plans on these?
Yes, we all know water is a basic and essential commodity we can’t do without in our lives. It is key to the well-being of every human. Lack of this potable water for cooking and drinking comes with diseases ranging from diarrhea and typhoid among others.
Some of the public schools lack portable water sources. There should also be adequate and separate toilet facilities for the boys and the girls.
Some girls don’t go to school during their menstrual period because they don’t feel comfortable menstruating and going to school.
This is so because they have no toilet facilities and portable water to cleanse themselves up properly. And so this has negative effect and impact on their education pursuit.
Also there is need for inclusion of menstrual hygiene in the subjects taken by the female students in the school. So it is very important to create awareness on how to keep themselves clean during the menstruation period.
Then there is need for Provision of sanitary pads. Because from time to time, the female students need to change the pads to ensure they are clean as that will protect them from diseases.
There should also be proper sanitary facilities such as dustbins.
So far, any form of support?
None for now, but we believe the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.