By Femi Mustapha
Save the Children International ( SCI) has asserted that 78% of girls in the Northern region of Nigeria are married before the age of 18.
This was contained in “State of the Nigerian Girl Report – An Incisive Diagnosis of Child Marriage” which explains the current and prevailing socio-cultural norms and practices in Nigeria around child marriage to capture the approximate state of Nigerian girls” and made available to newsmen.
The report stated that in Nigeria as a whole, 44% of girls are married before their 18th birthday and the country records as one of the highest rates of child marriage globally.
According to the report, the percentage of people aged 20-49 years who were first married or in union before age 18 for women was 44.1% while men accounted for 6%.
“The percentage of young people aged 15-19 years who are currently married or in a union for women was 22.2% while no man was in such a union.
” The percentage of people from 15-49 years who are in a polygynous union for women was 36.9% while men accounted for 18.7%.
“This is proof that Early Child Marriage affects quite a large number of women and girls”
Child marriage is more prevalent in the North West and North East of Nigeria, where 48% of girls were married by age 15 and 78% were married by age 18
“44% of girls are married before their 18th birthday and the country records as one of the highest rates of child marriage globally
” The report brings to the fore the dire state of the Nigerian girl child at the national level, its negative impact on education and empowerment, evidence-based gaps in socio-cultural beliefs and systems, and provides recommendations for moving forward to addressing these gaps in child marriage in Nigeria.
“Evidence shows there is a clear and strong link between Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM) prevalence and endemic poverty, poor education outcomes, school dropout rates, a high rate of out-of-school children, and poor access to basic social, economic, and healthcare services.
“Despite the Compulsory Free and Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, lack of access to quality, free, safe, uninterrupted and inclusive education for girls remains a big driver of child marriage.
“Various cultural, traditional, and social practices encourage gender-discriminatory norms against girls and women. Negative social norms condition parents and girls to accept child marriage as a normal way of life to come out of poverty.
“For instance, across Nigeria, sons-in-law expect to accept the siblings of their bride as members of his new household for economic maintenance and upbringing. Cash and other gifts for fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law are regularly expected from the son-in-law, the report discovers. ”
Speaking during the presentation
Country Director, Save the Children International, Nigeria. Mercy Gichuhi, said Child Early Forced Marriage is a human rights violation and a form of gender-based violence (GBV) that robs children of their ability to make decisions about their lives, disrupts their education, subject them to become more vulnerable to violence and discrimination, and prevents their full participation in economic, political, and social spheres.
In her remarks, Save the Children International Nigeria’s Girl Champion Purity Oriaifo, said “If a girl is out of school, the likelihood of getting married at an early age is very high.
“When a girl is married young, she is robbed of her childhood and opportunities to realize her full potential.
“She has an increased risk of poor health outcomes, having children at a younger age, dropping out of school, experiencing ongoing violence in the home, being restricted in her mobility, left with limited decision-making ability, and earning less over her lifetime”. She said
Similarly, Maryam Ahmed, Save the Children International Nigeria’s Youth Ambassador says “Children especially the girls are among the most affected by poverty in Nigeria”.