By Victoria Onehi
The Co-Chair Coalition of Civil Society to End Child Marriage in Nigeria, Carolyn Seaman, has said data from UNICEF reveal 22 million child brides live in Nigeria.
Seaman was speaking at a Press Conference in Abuja organised by the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Religious/Traditional Leaders to brief the African Union delegation on the efforts to end Early Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria
“Statistics reveals the indices of Child marriage in Nigeria, with 44% of girls married before their 18th birthday and 18% before they turn 15.Data from UNICEF reveals an estimated 22 million child brides live in Nigeria and estimates another 7 million to be added to amount to 29 million child brides by 2050.”She said.
Seaman said although CSOs have been working in various capacities to end child marriege, the gaps in the policy framework have left CSOs exploring various entry points to address child marriage at grassroots level while advocacy continues to address the policy gaps like the omission of the age of the child in the Constitution and the domestication and implementation of the Child Rights Act in states to protect the rights and welfare of children.
She stated that the African Union delegation visit has given CSOs the opportunity to present some of their challenges and make recommendations.
” Our hope is that as African Union they are able to put some level of influence at that higher level engagement with members states.”Seaman said.
The Head of the African Union (AU) delegation, Hon.Hermine Kembo Tekan Gatsing said they have heard from the CSOs and the Traditional / Religious leaders on ways and innovations they have been using to tackle the challenge of Early Child marriege and they hope to come up with strategies to help them come up with higher success.
“We were at the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and we had access to the Situation room.Out of the 10,000 cases of Gender Based Violence cases, there were 33 cases that were successfully prosecuted.This number is speaking for itself.So,from that we need to device strong strategies to overcome the problem.” She said.
The Jakadan Gusau,Dr Abdullahi Maiwada said the issue of early child marriege has consequential effects such as girls having Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) hence ending child marriege requires the collaborrative efforts from Religious and Community leaders,the government, families and even the girls themselves.
” We need an encompassing programme were there is enlightenment, education and communication particularly on the dangers that may result from giving out girls early in marriege such as VVF.” He said.
Maiwada further disclosed that Zamfara state has the Child Right Act and Social Protection Act which now help to protect the right of the child as enshrined in the Constitution.
” Zamfara state has established the Female Education Board which particularly caters for the girl-child education and ensure that girls stay in school until they are 18.
In addition,the Chairman Council of Chiefs in Zamfara state made a pronouncement against early child marriege.In northern Nigeria,when Religious and Traditional leaders make pronouncements the impact is bigger than the laws.With that,we have seen the situation reduce.At least ,a better appreciation that the girls will stay longer in school until they are physically mature and attain the age of 18.” Maiwada explains.
Corroborating this the Executive Secretary Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative,Kano, Amina Hanga said ending Child Marriege will not stop with changing policies and laws in the constitution but working closely with Community Leaders and families.
” We need to work closely with communities and families to change their perception of early child marriege.”Hange said.