By Aisha Ahmed, IHP Gender, Social Inclusion, and Community Engagement Advisor, Sokoto State, Nigeria and Morgan Mickle, Gender Specialist, WI-HER, LLC

“The initial Child Rights Act was a document which did not include the wider community and as such, did not receive the necessary support it needed to be implemented. But now since the wider community is being involved, the policy will be done thoroughly to ensure that no one comes back to say he/she was not part of the process.” – The Sultan of Sokoto

On November 20th, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWACA), with support from the USAID-funded Integrated Health Program (IHP) and UNICEF, conducted a Child Protection Law Sensitization Meeting for 86 District Heads in Sokoto State. As part of activities, the MOWACA Commissioner provided an overview on the child protection law – passed at the Federal level – and stressed the importance of such a law domesticated in the State while the Permanent Secretary addressed potential religious implications. In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto highlighted the importance of children in the holy scriptures, the detriment of gender-based violence and the need to hold perpetrators accountable, and the critical inclusion of community members in political processes. According to the Sultan, voices from the community must play a central role and not only be considered, but also engaged and incorporated for policies to be successful.

District Heads gather to discuss child protection issues at November 2019 Meeting.
Photo Credit: Aisha Ahmed

To further look at child protection issues and harmonize a way forward in the State, the Sultan of Sokoto asked that the draft child protection policy be printed and distributed to the 3 Senatorial Zones whereby the Waziri (second in command to the Sultan) should work with religious leaders to review the document, consolidate feedback, and present to him. During the Meeting, IHP tackled a key element of child protection – gender-based violence (GBV). In presence of the District Heads, the IHP Gender Advisor, in partnership with the MOWACA-supported gender-based violence technical working group, discussed GBV, types of cases reported in Sokoto, how GBV affects victims, and challenges related to reintegration into society including stigma and trauma. The Sensitization Meeting highlights collaborative efforts in the State and positive steps towards strengthening child protection in Sokoto.

The USAID Integrated Health Program (IHP), led by Palladium, currently provides technical assistance to three States in Nigeria – Kebbi, Bauchi, and Sokoto – to strengthen health systems and improve access to and quality of RMNCH+NM and primary health care services. Expert gender integration and social inclusion partner, WI-HER, LLC, is proud to support this initiative and leads efforts that promote equitable services that reach the most marginalized populations while working to advance I