To mark the International Day for Street Children 2012, Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation (SSNCEF) is implementing a three month outreach project to build relationships with street children in Akwa Ibom State.
In this part of Nigeria, abuse following accusations of witchcraft is all too common and children are often forced to leave their homes for a life on the street as a result. In a needs assessment of street children in Oron Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State, conducted by SSNCEF, high levels of child stigmatisation, abandonment and trafficking were recorded. Children claimed to have been trafficked or labelled as witches, and many knew others who had been killed, set on fire, bathed with acid, fed with poisonous berries, or undergone other unimaginable physical and emotional torture following witchcraft accusations.
SSNCEF is currently constructing a model centre in Oron for street children with similar backgrounds. The objective of the centre is to ensure children who have been abused or abandoned are protected from harm; it also aims to give families and communities in the region a better understanding of child rights.
Prior to the opening of the Oron Street Children Centre, there is need for SSNCEF to build trust and good working relationships with street children in the area and thus ensure children’s access to the facility. The outreach project is therefore designed to build the needed relationship, gather relevant information, and put in place relevant structures to ensure that children and the larger community make the best of the centre when it is eventually opened. Ultimately, the project and centre combined will ensure children who have been abused or abandoned will be protected from harm, and families and communities in the region will acquire a better understanding of child rights.