October 27, 2023

Nigeria has 23 million child brides – SCI

Nigeria has 23 million child brides – SCI

By Gabriel Ewepu, Abuja

As children remain highly vulnerable to societal heels in Nigeria, a report by Save the Children International, SCI, Nigeria, tagged ‘Budgeting to end Child Marriage in Nigeria’ indicated an alarming number of 23 million child brides in Nigeria.

The report which was launched by the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, indicated that Northern Nigeria records the highest number of child brides, which is 48 percent of women are married before age 15, while 78 percent are married before age 18, and added that adequate funding is required at all levels of government to effectively and sustainably curb the menace that endangers the future of the girl-child.

According to the report, child marriage is both a cause and consequence of adolescent pregnancy and is linked to maternal mortality, poor education, ongoing exposure to gender-based violence, illiteracy, and intergenerational poverty, and this threatens girls’ rights and gender equality.

The report reads in part: “With a population of more than 218 million people, Nigeria is home to 23 million child brides, with two in every five women married as children.

“In Northern Nigeria, where rates are highest, 48 per cent of women are married before age 15 while 78 percent are married before age 18.5 child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of adolescent pregnancy and is linked to maternal mortality, poor education, ongoing exposure to GBV, illiteracy, and intergenerational poverty.”

The report called on the government to holistically address child marriage and the need to upscale funding to protect the girl-child, ensuring they remain unmarried and are in school, and also build more classrooms and schools to accommodate more girls, hence the need to increase the budget to end child marriage.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, blew hot over the inhuman treatment meted out to the girl-child as far as child marriage is concerned.

Kennedy-Ohanenye disclosed in her keynote address that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, has approved the establishment of a mobile court to trial child abusers based on the Child Rights Act, CRA, in all the States across the country, which she said children will be well protected as there will be a lot of prosecution of offenders including parents who allow or support such abuses violating rights of children who are citizens of the country.

She also called on States to work with the Federal Government to curb the menace of child marriage.

However, she tasked children to learn skills and when they reach the age of 18 they can use those skills to make money for their well-being.

Earlier, the Interim Country Director, SCI, Nigeria, Faton Krasniqi, represented by the Director of Advocacy, Campaigns, Communication and Media, Amanuel Mamo, pointed out that budgeting on any child rights agenda is very imperative based on the future of the children and it also protects the child’s right.

Krasniqi said: “Child marriage erodes and dries the future of the girls, their dreams and hope in life. One of the girls who unfortunately end up in early, child and forced marriage could possibly be someone who invents and have a solution for some of the major challenges that the world is facing today.

“Girls have the potential to transform the world positively with
0pschool instead of letting them 0get married as a child. A girl child is supposed to study, she is not mature enough to be a wife or a mother, which cuts her dreams short.

“There are some bold measures that the Federal and State governments have taken to advance child rights in Nigeria. The National Strategy to End Child Marriage (2016-21)is among the major tools that the Federal
Ministry of Women Affairs has been championing.

“The creation of National Technical Working Group on Ending Child Marriage also brought coalition of stakeholders from the government, CSOs and INGOs with an intention to drive the implementation the strategy.

“The existing laws, strategies and plans can only be fulfilled if it is budget for. Therefore, the finding of this research underscores the importance of allocating adequate financial resources to tackle the underlying causes
of child marriage.

“The report provides a review and analysis of how the government has been budgeting towards the efforts of ending child
marriage in Nigeria.

“The study identifies bottlenecks and provides recommendations on what should be addressed to accelerate the fight against early, child and forced marriage.”

Also, a Girl Champion of SCI Nigeria, from Benue State, and a One-day Acting Governor of Benue State, Hon Shamiga Rita, speaking on behalf of the children cried out for intervention to safeguard the future of the girl-child against child marriage.

“The issue of child marriage is very worrisome and challenging because it cuts the girls’ lives short and hinders them from achieving their dreams and aspirations including full potential.

“Government need to implement the child rights law, and we need actions, budgeting and planning should be children inclusive. We also need sensitization, and we also advocate for child’s right, and parents need sensitization. We want change, and if the girl-child is denied her right how can we have this change?”, Rita asked.

Also the Katsina State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Zainab Musa, who represented the First Lady of Katsina, said the issue of child marriage is very troubling, and said their plan of action is to take back budgeting proposal as shown by SCI Nigeria and will ensure it is budgeted for in order to end child marriage in the State.