Monday 5 December 2016

By James Bigila, Media Coordinator

The Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo recently launched the Campaign to end Child Marriage in Nigeria .

Save the Children in partnership with development organisations and the Federal ministry of Women Affairs led the Vice President in unveiling the Campaign Logo and the Launch of the National Strategy to End Child Marriage in Nigeria.

The Launch of the campaign to End Child Marriage in Nigeria makes Nigeria the 16th country to join the African Union’s Campaign to end child marriage by 2030.

Speaking during the Launch, the Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan said Child marriage limits young girls in fulfilling their potentials.

“Child marriage threatens girls’ lives and health, and it limits their full potential”, said Aisha Alhassan, minister for women affairs and social development.

Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan who was also part of the campaign noted that 65 percent of northern Nigerian girls get married before 18.

She said “In 2015, an estimated six million girls were married by age 15 years. Child marriage is extremely prevalent in the Northeast and Northwest geo-political zones of Nigeria. Northern Nigeria has one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world with an estimated 65 percent of children married off before the age of 18 years.

Alhasan also confirmed that the ministry in collaboration with Save The Children International and United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) partnered with the ministry by engaging two consultants to carry out research on ending the harmful traditional practice.
“The detrimental consequences of child marriage on children, families, communities and nations at large are evident. There are always high maternal mortality and morbidity, illiteracy, lack of skills, unemployment, low income and widespread misery among the victims of child marriage especially female victims.

“The vision of the National Strategy Document therefore is to have zero child marriage in Nigeria by 2030 and the goal of the campaign is to reduce child marriage by 40 percent by 2020. This is achievable if all stakeholders will network, pull resources together and make budgetary provisions for implementation of activities and programmes that will end child marriage in Nigeria.” she said.
She further said, in order to scarp this tradition that all hands must be on deck.
“Protection of our children is our duty. All of us need to join hands to achieve this through provision of adequate services and comprehensive preventive efforts so that our girls and boys can have access and have quality education” she said

The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo in his keynote address said, “There is evidence of correlation between child marriage and poverty. West and Central Africa have the highest rate of child marriage in the world. Two out of five girls are married before they are 18. There is unassailable proof that early marriage affects the physical, mental and psychological health of the girl child… There is evidence that there is correlation between illiteracy and child marriage.

“Nigeria has made positive advances in ending child marriage through the enactment of the Child Right Act. He also confirmed that 24 out of the 36 states of the country have abused the Act, urging that more efforts should be made to ensure education of girls in the country.

“I urge the states which have not made provisions for educating girls who are out of school to do so. Barriers to girl-child education must be removed,” the Vice President noted.

Nearly one out of every two girls in Nigeria is married off under age of 18, making Nigeria the country with the world’s highest number of child brides.

Nigeria committed to ending all forms of harmful practices, including child marriage, against women and girls at an African Union summit in 2014, in line with Sustainable Development Goals.

 His Excellency, The Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo giving his keynote address.

The launch is part of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in attempts to provide a better future for girls.

The event also had leaders of religious and traditional institutions making commitments to end child marriage in Nigeria by 2030.

Girls who get married before 18 years give birth early and are exposed to harm, according to experts. At ages less than 18, they are more likely to suffer fistula, die while giving birth or give birth to stillborn babies.

Children born to child mothers are more likely to suffer from stunting and wasting.

The ministry of women affairs and social development has asked that the age of marriage be defined as 18, when girls are “mentally and physically responsible,” said Alhassan.

 “The campaign launched today is a call to action. It is an attempt to save the lives of adolescent girls pressed into marriage too early, many of whom become pregnant and are at a higher risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth”, said Mohamed Fall, representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund in Nigeria.

“These complications are a leading cause of death among adolescents girls in countries like Nigeria; a cause of death that is unnecessary and unacceptable,” he added.

His Excellency, Mr. Christopher Thornley addressing the audience in his goodwill message.

The Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Alhassan with officials from Save the Children and UNICEF