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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 28  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 33-38

Prevalence, pattern and predictors of sexual abuse among young female hawkers in Kano metropolis, Nigeria

1 Department of Community Medicine, Bayero University; Department of Community Medicine, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital; African Center of Excellence for Population Health and Policy, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria
2 Department of Community Medicine, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria
3 Department of Community Medicine, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Nigeria
4 Department of Community Medicine, Bayero University; Department of Community Medicine, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Nigeria

Date of Submission11-Sep-2020
Date of Decision04-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance11-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication25-Feb-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Fatimah Ismail Tsiga-Ahmed
Department of Community Medicine, Bayero University, Kano
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/npmj.npmj_295_20

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Context: Sexual abuse of young female hawkers is a subject of public health importance with resultant long-lasting physical and mental consequences. Aims: This study assessed the prevalence, pattern and predictors of sexual abuse among female hawkers in Kano State, Nigeria. Settings and Design: Using a descriptive cross-sectional design and two-stage sampling technique, female hawkers in Kano metropolis were studied. Subjects and Methods: An adapted and pre-tested semi-structured interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to obtain information from 236 female hawkers. Data were analysed with SPSS Statistics, version 24.0 software. Prevalence and pattern of sexual abuse was determined and adjusted odds ratios of predictors derived from binary logistic regression models. Results: The prevalence of sexual abuse was 68.6%. Forms of sexual abuse reported included verbal abuse (38.1%), inappropriate touch (64.0%) and rape (25.8%). Predictors of sexual abuse included respondents' age (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 10.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] [2.92–38.84]), ethnicity (aOR = 4.26, 95% CI [1.30–14.00]), highest educational attainment (aOR = 0.38, 95% CI [0.15–0.99]), residence with parent (s) (aOR = 0.07, 95%CI [0.01–0.54]) and parents being alive (aOR = 6.79, 95%CI [1.41–32.62]). Conclusions: Sexual abuse is prevalent among female hawkers and the forms experienced ranged from verbal abuse to inappropriate touch and rape. Interventions that delay age at the commencement of hawking, ensure the education of the girl child and support parental care could foster more matured and smart female hawkers who can avoid sexual abuse.

Keywords: Female hawkers, pattern, predictors, sexual abuse

How to cite this article:
Amole TG, Abdullahi H, Abdullahi NT, Abubakar AS, Ajayi AO, Tsiga-Ahmed FI. Prevalence, pattern and predictors of sexual abuse among young female hawkers in Kano metropolis, Nigeria. Niger Postgrad Med J 2021;28:33-8

How to cite this URL:
Amole TG, Abdullahi H, Abdullahi NT, Abubakar AS, Ajayi AO, Tsiga-Ahmed FI. Prevalence, pattern and predictors of sexual abuse among young female hawkers in Kano metropolis, Nigeria. Niger Postgrad Med J [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jul 30];28:33-8. Available from: https://www.npmj.org/text.asp?2021/28/1/33/310160

  Introduction Top

Sexual abuse refers to the misuse or wrong use of sexuality whether in action, touching of breast or buttocks, very intimate body contact or actual sexual intercourse with a person. It also includes the use of words suggestive of intention to engage in any form of sexual activity or practice.[1] Globally, in the lifetime of women, a third have experienced some kind of violence, either or sexual.[2] Even more susceptible to this abuse are hawkers whose population are mostly children.[3] According to the World Health Organization, childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the most common types of childhood trauma, especially among females.[4] Global reviews have suggested a fairly greater prevalence of CSA among females with a 2–3 fold higher risk in females compared to males.[3]

Hawking is prevalent in many middle- and low-income countries.[5] Majority of the hawking population are children, making it the most prevalent form of child labour in Nigeria.[6] It is a common practice in Kano state, especially among female school-aged children who are assumed to be more capable of attracting clients. Aside hawking being part of the family gender division of labour, poverty has been implicated as the major reason for the increase in the pool of young female hawkers. The act is also considered to groom girls to be self-reliant and provide financial contributions towards their wedding expenses.[7] These female hawkers spend long hours on the streets and are exposed to numerous hazards including sexual abuse. They are also at risk of being manipulated into prostitution with the attendant risks of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV.[5] Sexual abuse of young female hawkers is a subject of public health importance in settings where hawking is prevalent.[1],[3],[5],[8] In Burkina Faso, half of the young female hawkers studied commonly encountered sexual harassment at the workplace.[9]

Differing figures and forms of sexual abuse have been reported among female hawkers in Nigeria: 69.9% were abused in the South-South,[3] 76.2% in the South-East;[1] with 7 in 10 being abused[8] and about 1 in 20 raped in the South-West.[10] Juvenile female hawkers reported different patterns: penetrative sexual intercourse (17.2%), inappropriate touches (81.5%) and verbal abuses (93.1%) in Anambra, South-East Nigeria.[1] Similarly, in the South-South, the female hawkers reported verbal abuse (54.1%), inappropriate touch (56.4%), kissing (14.5%), intercourse due to enticement (18.0%) and rape (12.2%).[3] The aftermath of this menace is lasting consequences which affect their physical and mental health.[11] While the acute problems of pain and genital injury can heal early, long-term psychological and medical consequences could persist for life.[12] Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and substance abuse have all been attributed to this form of violence.[10] Worse still, others like unwanted pregnancies, complications of abortion, sexually transmitted diseases (such as HIV) and suicide attempts could be fatal. While the hawkers in Kano are hard to count, a recent estimate showed that 53.6% of children between 5 and 17 years in Kano were involved in child labour with 37.5% of those engaged in economic activities being below the age-specific threshold. Furthermore, an alarming figure of 44.4% were working under hazardous conditions.[13] Sadly, discussions around sexuality, related rights and possible abuse in highly cultural settings like northern Nigeria are very sensitive and often shrouded around a lot of secrecy. Very little has been documented on sexual abuse among female hawkers in Kano, one of the most populous cities in Africa. To plan interventions that can address this menace among this vulnerable group, this study sought to determine the prevalence and predictors of sexual abuse among female hawkers in the metropolis.

  Subjects and Methods Top

Study area and population

Kano State is in the North-West geopolitical zone of Nigeria. Kano city is the largest in northern Nigeria and the second most populous in the country. The study area was Kano metropolis which comprises 8 LGAs and constitutes about 30% (3,999,000) of Kano State population.[14] The LGAs include Kano Municipal, Dala, Gwale, Fagge, Nassarawa, Tarauni, Ungogo and Kumbotso. The city has a long tradition of commerce. Female hawkers are found around areas with heavy traffic, street pavement, markets, schools, constructions site, motor parks and bus stops around the Kano metropolis area. Many of them are mobile, carrying their wares from place to place, but a few are stationary and often occupy a particular spot to sell their goods. The study population were female hawkers (<30 years) within Kano metropolis. Those who had hawked for at least 6 months within Kano metropolis and consented were included while those who worked as shop or store attendants were excluded.

Study design and sampling

The study was descriptive cross-sectional in design and was conducted in June 2019. The minimum sample size was calculated using the STATA version 15.0 StataCorp LLC. College Station, Texas, USA [15] A prevalence (p) of an experience of a form of sexual abuse among female hawkers (81.5%) from a previous study,[1] power of 80% and tolerable error (d) of 7% were used. An estimated sample size of 193 was obtained and adjusted by 20% to adjust for non-response to give a final sample size of 232 which was rounded up to 250.

A two-stage sampling technique was used to select eligible respondents. In the first stage, two of the eight metropolitan LGAs were selected using the simple random technique (balloting): Tarauni and Kano Municipal LGAs. Given that there was no list of street hawkers in the LGAs, convenience sampling was used to select young female hawkers in the second stage. Areas in the LGA such as motor parks, construction sites, in and around markets were explored to find and recruit eligible respondents till the sample size was achieved. Data collection spanned from 1 to 30 June 2019.

Study instrument and data collection

An adapted,[5] semi-structured, interviewer-administered questionnaire was used for data collection. The English version of the questionnaire was translated to Hausa as majority of the respondents spoke only the local language. The accuracy of the translation was checked by a professional translator who back-translated to English. The tool had three sections namely sociodemographic data, characteristics of female hawkers and prevalence and pattern of sexual abuse. The tool was pre-tested among 30 female hawkers in a rural LGA and thereafter reviewed to ensure clarity and sensitive questions were rephrased appropriately.

Data analysis

Data obtained from the questionnaire were checked for errors and analysed using SPSS statistical software version 24 StataCorp LLC. College Station, Texas, USA. Mean and standard deviation or median and range were used to summarise quantitative variables, while frequencies and percentages were used to summarise qualitative variables. At bivariate analysis, the Chi-square test was used to test for association between the experience of sexual abuse and the characteristics of the respondents; with statistical significance set at P ≤ 0.05. To develop a logistic regression model, the experience of sexual abuse was the outcome/dependent variable, while respondents' characteristics were the independent variables and variables that had P < 0.1 at the bivariate level of analysis were included in the model. Adjusted odds ratio and confidence intervals were used to determine the strength of association between the dependent and independent variables. Having parents alive, living with parents and minimum daily sale were considered as a priori confounding variables and thus were added to the final model.

Ethical approval

Ethical clearance was obtained from the Kano State Health Research and Ethics Committee, Kano State Ministry of Health (MOH/797/EI/1258) on 23 May 2019. Informed consent was obtained from the respondents before administration of the questionnaires and they thumb printed or signed the consent forms.

  Results Top

Two hundred and thirty-six (94.4%) of 250 young female hawkers responded and completed the questionnaires. Their age ranged from 10 to 27 years with a mean (± standard deviation) of 15.2 ± 3.3 years and majority (n = 217; 91.9%) were adolescents. Majority (n = 207; 87.7%) of them were single, of Hausa/Fulani tribe (n = 220; 93.2%) and Muslims (n = 224; 94.9%). Slightly more than half of them had one form of formal education (n = 138; 58.5%). More than two-third of them were living with both parents (n = 165; 69.9%) [Table 1].
Table 1: Sociodemographic characteristics of female hawkers

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Regarding their parents, almost three-quarters of the female hawkers had both parents alive (n = 174; 73.7%). Most of their fathers were farmers (n = 85; 36.0%) and traders (n = 56; 23.7%), while their mothers were mainly petty traders (n = 95; 40.3%) and some full-time housewives (n = 66; 28.0%). The item hawked was mainly food, either raw (n = 108; 45.8%) or cooked (n = 103; 43.6%) with hawking hours ranging from 1 to 16, with majority (n = 181; 76.7%) hawking for 6 h or more and just slightly more than half (n = 133; 56.4%) made daily sales above poverty line (₦700/$1.9) [Table 2].
Table 2: Respondent's parents and hawking characteristics

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Of the respondents, more than two-thirds of them (n = 162, 68.6%) had experienced sexual abuse in one or more forms while hawking. The most common form was 'inappropriate touch' (n = 151; 64.0%) and a quarter (n = 61; 25.8%) had experienced rape. The lifetime frequency of abuse ranged from one to six times with slightly more than half (n = 125; 53.0%) reporting being abused more than thrice [Table 3].
Table 3: Prevalence and pattern of sexual abuse

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At the bivariate level, the experience of being sexually abused was significantly associated with respondents' age, ethnicity, school attendance and highest educational attainment (P < 0.05.[Table 4] After adjusting for all variables in the final model, respondents' age, ethnicity, highest educational attainment, residence with parent(s) and parents being alive remained significant predictors of being sexually abused. Specifically, respondents aged 15–19 years were more than ten times more likely to be abused (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 10.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] [2.92–38.84]) than older respondents (≥20 years) or much younger adolescents (10–14 years). Similarly, respondents who were Hausa/Fulani had more than 4-fold (aOR = 4.26, 95% CI [1.30–14.00]) increased odds of being sexually abused compared to other tribes. Furthermore, respondents whose highest educational attainment was secondary level had a 62% decreased risk of sexual abuse (aOR = 0.38, 95% CI [0.15–0.99]). Likewise, respondents presently living with their parents were 93% less likely to be sexually abused (aOR = 0.07, 95% CI [0.01–0.54]). Finally, respondents whose parents were both alive had almost 7-fold (aOR = 6.79, 95% CI [1.41–32.62]) increased risk of being sexually abused [Table 5].
Table 4: Factors associated with sexual abuse

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Table 5: Logistic regression model for predictors of sexual abuse

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  Discussion Top

This study noted a high prevalence of sexual harassment among the female hawkers, most of whom were adolescents, <18 years and would still be categorised as 'children'. Thus, what was observed majorly in this study can be referred to as sexual abuse among children street hawkers. The selling of goods and services by children along streets and roads to make a living or complement family income often interferes with the physical, emotional, psychological and social development as well as the safety of the children involved.[7] This may refer to a large proportion of children in Kano and Nigeria as a whole as a recent estimate showed that more than half of the children between 5 and 17 years were involved in child labour.[13] Of those involved in street hawking, the problem of sexual abuse is not peculiar to the northern region of the country as comparably high prevalence of sexual abuse was noted among female hawkers in the South-South (76.2%)[3] and South-East (69.9%).[1] In a related study in Burkina Faso, 50.4% of the female hawkers had been sexually harassed.[9]

The negative use of sexuality 'in action' was the most common form of sexual abuse as was reported in earlier literature.[3] Similar to the pattern of abuse reported by previous studies,[1],[3] inappropriate touches and verbal abuse were most common. Many of the female hawkers had been touched inappropriately, more than a third verbally abused, a quarter raped and majority of them had suffered these forms of abuse more than once. This gives an insight into the nature and frequency of trauma that young girls may be exposed to while going about their trade. The acute trauma whether physical or psychological is just the tip of the iceberg as long-term health consequences have been noted to persist for life.[12]

The characteristics of these adolescent girls which predicted their probability of being sexually abused were the interplay of health determinants. Sexual abuse has been noted to occur early in life (11–17 years)[16] and this study showed majority of the female hawkers to be in this age group with those in the late adolescence stage being much more likely to be abused. The adult female hawkers were less likely to be abused as they are reported to be able to negotiate their way better and are smarter in avoiding sexual abuse.[17] Interestingly, those in the late adolescence age group were also noted to more likely experience sexual abuse while hawking in Uyo, Nigeria.[3] Peculiarities of the adolescent period which is a unique time characterised by a hunger for adventure and experimentation with sex,[18] may play a role. However, it is important to note that sexual abuse infringes on the rights of these individuals. This study also found that attaining higher educational status was a predictor of sexual abuse as those who had secondary education had decreased odds of being sexually abused compared to those with primary and no formal education. School attendance may confer some skill sets that reduce the vulnerability to sexual abuse and it also reduces the number of hours spent hawking. Although not significantly associated with the experience of sexual abuse in this study, the number of hours spent hawking was noted by a similar study in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State to be significantly associated with the experience of sexual abuse. Those who had dropped out of school were seven times more likely to be abused compared to those in primary school.[3] The importance of education on the well-being of the girl child cannot be overemphasised; including its protection against sexual abuse.[3] The positive impact of education transcends individual lives and impacts the society as well as generations after.

Another predictor of sexual abuse was the ethnicity of the respondents. The ethnic group which constituted the majority (Hausa/Fulani) had increased odds of being abused. The role of sociodemographic factors in sexual abuse among female hawkers was reported by other researchers[9],[18] who reported Muslims to have an increased probability of being sexually abused. Incidentally, the Hausa/Fulani in this setting were Muslims too. The interplay of several sociodemographic and environmental factors may be responsible. As was previously reported, family factors and parental involvement in adolescent's life have major roles to play in adolescents and young people's experiences of sexual abuse.[19] Interventions that strengthen bonds within family units could mastermind the prevention of sexual abuse among vulnerable groups such as hawkers. Female hawkers who lived with their parents in this study were more protected from being sexually abused than their counterparts who lived with non-parents. What seemed to matter was 'living with parents' as paradoxically some who had their parents alive had increased odds of being abused. Parental involvement in personal life often involves strengthening and reinforcement of morals and values.

This study was limited with some information bias. Some of the respondents were anxious and could not freely disclose information on sexual abuse experience because of fear of stigmatisation and disclosure to parents; as well as cultural peculiarities. However, they were repeatedly assured of confidentiality. The pre-test of questionnaires in a rural LGA and the use of convenience sampling to select the hawkers in the 2nd stage were also limitations. All the urban LGAs were included in the study sites as such the tool had to be pre-tested in a rural LGA.

  Conclusion and Recommendations Top

This study highlights the fact that sexual abuse is prevalent among female hawkers in our setting. Majority of the hawkers had repeatedly experienced different forms of sexual abuse. Parental education on dangers of hawking particularly at a younger age, ensuring girl child education and promoting parent–child interaction or influence would help curb the menace of sexual abuse among female hawkers. Future research could employ qualitative methods and other sampling techniques to examine factors that aid and abet such practices as well as understand the characteristics of perpetrators and issues around reporting. Policymakers, programmers and family units would need to explore these factors and ensure that if the female child hawks, she should be equipped and supported to avoid sexual abuse. Parents/guardians should be encouraged to cohabit and diligently watch over their wards; as well as ensure that they continue schooling despite hawking. This will reduce the hawking duration and decrease their risk of being sexually abused.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Ikechebelu JI, Udigwe GO, Ezechukwu CC, Ndinechi AG, Joe-Ikechebelu NN. Sexual abuse among juvenile female street hawkers in Anambra State, Nigeria. Afr J Reprod Health 2008;12:111-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
World Health Organization. Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence: Executive Summary. World Health Organization; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 2
Johnson O, Motilewa O, Ekpin V. Forms and determinants of sexual abuse among female child hawkers in Uyo, Nigeria. J Community Med Prim Health Care 2019;31:13-25.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pan Y, Lin X, Liu J, Zhang S, Zeng X, Chen F, et al. Prevalence of Childhood Sexual Abuse Among Women Using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire: A Worldwide Meta-Analysis. Trauma Violence Abuse. 2020. Available from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/152483802012867. [Last accessed 2020 June 19]. doi: 10.1177/1524838020912867.  Back to cited text no. 4
Udoh NA, Joseph EU. Behavioural problems of juvenile street hawkers in Uyo metropolis, Nigeria. World J Educ 2012;2:137-44.  Back to cited text no. 5
Akpotor J. Parental poverty as a determinant of children street hawking in Warri metropolis of Delta State, Nigeria. Res Hum Soc Sci 2018;8:90-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
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Ouédraogo SY, Sisawo EJ, Huang SL. Sexual abuse and risky sexual behaviors among young female hawkers in Burkina Faso: A mixed method study. BMC Int Health Hum Rights 2017;17:1.  Back to cited text no. 9
Fawole OI, Ajuwon AJ, Osungbade KO, Faweya OC. Prevalence and nature of violence among young female hawkers in motor-parks in south-western Nigeria. Health Educ 2002;102:230-238  Back to cited text no. 10
Hornor G, Zeno R. Child sexual abuse perpetrators: What forensic nurses need to know. J Forensic Nurs 2018;14:206-13.  Back to cited text no. 11
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StataCorp. Stata Statistical Software: Release 15. College Station, TX: StataCorp LLC; 2017.  Back to cited text no. 15
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing sexual Abuse. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/. [Last accessed 2020 8 May 8].  Back to cited text no. 16
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Oke K. Sexual behaviour of adolescent hawkers in Ilorin metropolis: The role of socio-demographic predictors. BJE 2006;4:15-27.  Back to cited text no. 18
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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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