My curious-self crossed to the other side and was about to ask, "wetin dey happen" when I saw it. A lifeless newborn (baby) wrapped in a blanket. One of the cleaners found him/her in the gutter. Lagos-lookers were cursing at the person responsible for dumping the baby. Some said they suspect the person is/lives around the corner. So they raved and cursed.
Why will anybody dump a new born baby in the gutter?
Poverty. Shame. Judgmental stares. Lack of support. Sickness. Poverty of the mind. The list of possible reasons might not occupy this space. Yes. There are many reasons why that can happen. But does it justify the action?
Young people are sexually active. It is no longer news. But what is disturbing is that people are still not embracing the many opportunities to empower themselves and reduce their exposure to unwanted pregnancy or improve their ability to make informed decisions about their lives. By this I do not mean a mass rally aimed at distributing contraceptives and its likes on the street. I mean access to comprehensive and empowering information. Access to youth friendly resource centers and clinics across Nigeria. Where one can actually get first-hand information on how to be more and do more, positively.
In a presentation on HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health Vulnerabilities of Adolescents and Young people in Nigeria, Dr Otibho Obianwu of Population Council Nigeria said that although there is improvement in health seeking behavior among adolescents and young people, the overall level is still low when compared to their exposure to risk-bearing sexual activities. During the Media-Research Advocacy Exchange Platform in Lagos, it was revealed that limited access to sexual and reproductive health information, societal stigma surrounding pre-marital adolescent sex, negative attitude of health providers, fear of parental retribution etc. are factor affecting health seeking behavior of adolescents and young people in Nigeria. Don’t forget, this age group make up about 31.6% of Nigeria’s population, numbering over 55million! In Dr Obianwu’s words— adolescents and young people are “direct link between society’s future (children) and past (older adults)".
The purpose of this text is not to reel-out statistics of any kind. But I hope one real life report like this is enough to spur girls, boys, parents, teachers, NGOs, activists, religious leaders, government, corporate Nigeria and all stakeholders into action, to protect (empower) young people, to protect our future.
One might ask, how are you sure it is a young person that dumped the baby in the gutter? Does it matter who did? A baby has been lost. A generation wiped out. But can we prevent future occurrences and protect the future?
It is our responsibility.
NOTE to young people: don't cut yourself from empowering opportunities. Visit a Youth Resource Centre and Youth Friendly Clinic today to know what's up and/or get help!
Checkout the youth resource center and youth friendly clinic at Action Health Incorporated
17 Lawal street, Jibowu Lagos.
Growing Up: www.growingupmag.org