1 October is a public holiday in Nigeria because it is the nation’s Independence Day and the Solemnity of Our Lady, Queen of Nigeria. This year the country is commemorating its 60th anniversary of independence.
There, as in every part of the world, the Covid-19 pandemic brought about several months of lockdown, which meant that schools were closed and children had to stay indoors. Our FSP community is located in Kado Kuchi, a fast growing part of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Despite the growth in infrastructure in the city, there still exists an “urban village” where many poor people live. The parents of the children do menial jobs to earn a living, struggling to provide food for their large families.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, the children in Kado Kuchi did not have access to online studies, like the students in the city’s private schools. The many hours and days without in-person classes meant that these youngsters were trapped in environments that made them more prone to abuse, especially sexual abuse. (In fact, there has been a sharp increase in rape cases in Nigeria since the lockdown.)
The Daughters of St. Paul of Abuja took advantage of the holiday to gather together children from this less-privileged zone to create awareness about the evils of abuse and human trafficking in society. They say that about 100 children, ages 4-15, from two nearby parishes, participated in the encounter and that it was very touching to see them all sit and listen attentively to the input, and to participate actively as well, asking many questions.
Afterward, they were divided into four groups, according to their ages. They shared ideas with one another and then each group presented a brief report to the larger gathering concerning what they had learned.
At the end of the event, each child received a packet of book published by Paulines Publications Nigeria on the topics treated. The gift was made possible thanks to generous local benefactors who supported this initiative. Our sisters hope that they will receive more help and funding for the programs they are organizing to empower children in the fight to overcome and eradicate abuse and human trafficking in Nigerian society.