By Bashir Bello
A youth-led Non-Governmental Organization, Bridge Connect Africa Initiative, BCAI, has called on the Kano State government to as a matter of urgency ensure speedy passage and signing of the child protection bill into law in order to end child marriage and other forms of violence against the children in the state.
The Executive Director of BCAI, Sani Muhammad made the call during an informational dialogue with the Kano State Ministry of Education in attendance, reputable CSOs and lawyers in the state.
Muhammad said the bill is still with the Ministry of Justice and they are yet to transmit it to the house of Assembly and the Governor for assent.
According to him, “some evidence-based information on child marriage in northern Nigeria which has the highest rates of child marriage in the world estimated 65% among children below the age of 18 years according to Federal Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development, 2016.
“Similarly, for the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey, NDHS 2018, in Nigeria, the median age at first marriage among women age 20-49 and age 25-49 in Kano state is 16 years and 15.9 years respectively. With 27% of adolescent girls 15-19 years who have already begun childbearing, and 45% of women who reported to having no education, with only 8% of women who reported completing secondary school education.
“Child marriage makes completing education almost impossible for girls. It is extremely difficult for girls to remain in school once they get married. These issues are costing the Kano state government useful human resources and hinging sustainable development of families and communities in the state. Less-educated women in the state continue to translate into lost investments.
“According to the World Bank in 2017, child marriage costs Nigeria USD7.6 billion in lost earnings and productivity every year.
“Prioritizing end to child marriage will increase the state’s earning, boost economic productivity, reduce the number of maternal deaths and birth-related complications and create healthier, happier, sustainable communities where everyone thrives.
“The good news is that keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to delay marriage and give girls healthier lives and promising futures.
“The Kano State Government should sign the Child Protection Bill (2018) into law to prevent and protect girls from early forced marriage and ensure child protection.
“Efforts to end child marriage and advance the health and rights of girls must be at the centre of the state development agenda in order to end extreme poverty and ensure the protection of human rights for all including children,” Muhammad said.
In his remarks, the Commissioner of Education Muhammad Sunusi Kiru said the free and compulsory education for all children including the girl child in the state was part of efforts by the government to ensure a smooth transition and curb early child marriage.
Kiru represented by Malam Nasiru Abdullahi Kwalli, said the Ministry is working to train all school actors including children on effective strategies to keep safe and report such cases.
The dialogue which was conducted with support from the Population Reference Bureau Youth Multimedia Fellowship program under the PACE – Policy, Advocacy, and Communications Enhanced for Population and Reproductive Health, however, covers areas of child protection including child marriage, child sexual and gender-based violence, access to education, legal frameworks, budget processes and accountability mechanisms for public health and service delivery.