Street hawking in its simplest form, is the selling of things along the roads from one place to the other. In Nigeria this is done almost all the time by young children both males and females. The hawkers come to the cities in groups and then go to different directions of the city to hawk their goods. They remain in the city from early morning to late in the evening when they take buses back to their respective villages after the days sales.
Child Street hawking is one of the main forms of child labour. Others include: children work at building sites or on farms. Female child street hawking is common sight on streets in Nigeria today, especially in states like Lagos, Imo and Kano, street hawking has become rampant among residents of the states.
Young girls sell products such as boiled groundnut, fruits and chips that they carry on trays balanced on their heads. In recent months, the practice has been on the rise.
The increase is the result of spiraling poverty and the worsening economic situation. Street hawking has huge implications for childrens physical and emotional well-being. It exposes the girl child to sexual abuse, physical exhaustion, vehicle accidents, death and malnutrition and drug abuse and prostitution.
According to my research I found out that among the young girls who street hawk, there is low awareness of pregnancy or the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
If we say children are the leaders of tomorrow then Nigeria’s future leaders can be seen on dangerous highways peddling their wares from sausage rolls, chin-chin to sachet and table water respectively.
Increased poverty level and high rate of unemployment in the country today have forced many parents to indulge their kids in street hawking. Even though, in most cases these parents or guardians are aware of the dangers and the effects it poses to the life, psychology and future of the children.
The monthly income of some parents is so low to the extent that they struggle to pay their rents, buy foodstuffs at home and therefore find it rather convenient to make this children hawk goods on busy roads than to send them to school.
Street hawking poses a lot of dangers to the health and live of the Nigerian child such that in the process of selling their goods along these busy roads, they get exposed to reckless drivers, kidnappers, drug abuse, ritualists, malnutrition, and sexual abuse.
Due to these unhealthy exposures the ones who are fortunate enough to escape kidnappers or reckless drivers, grow into adulthood and end up as prostitutes, drug addicts, or thieves.
The solution to curbing child street hawking in Nigeria is for the government to discourage such practices. Poverty alleviation, health education, and solid protective child rights policies should be implemented in the constitution.
Increase in the federal minimum wage, provision of job opportunities and youth empowerment programmes would decrease the prevalence of child street hawking .
Establishment of affordable and accessible government schools, awarding of scholarships and implementation of a free education for all policy that will make education very easy to acquire.
Girl child street hawking opposes the UN CONVENTION on the right of the child Nigeria is a signatory to the convention, which was established in 1989. The convention makes it an offence to involve children in an activity which impacts negatively on their health and well-being. The convention also emphasizes the need for the government to protect children from exploitation.
In addition to the convention, Nigeria’s Child Right Act has similar provisions. It says “children should be protected from trafficking or street hawking”. But the implementation of these provisions has been abysmal to date. Children are still being trafficked and pushed into street hawking despite the many dangers associated with it.
The past the government has provided some structural interventions. These include the Universal Basic Educational programme; which Introduced in 1999. It was intended to guarantee tuition-free compulsory basic education for all children in Nigeria. But due to poor infrastructure, inadequate funding and lowering education standards the impact is yet to be felt.
Despite the emotional trauma and physical dangers these vulnerable children face, little has being done to protect them or to discourage such practices. Poverty alleviation, health education and protective child rights policies would decrease the prevalence of child street hawking.
The parents of the children who street hawk, should be empowered economically to be able to take care of them. But the government should also create awareness about child trafficking and provide affected children with support.
More importantly, the government must understand the psychological impact of this trade. It must tailor interventions to meet the needs of these children and to reduce the practice.
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