A new report by Save the Children International says 78 per cent of girls from the northern part of Nigeria are married off before the age of 18.
The report, titled ‘State of the Nigerian Girl Report – An Incisive Diagnosis of Child Marriage’, captures socio-cultural norms and practices in Nigeria around child marriage.
According to it, child marriage is more prevalent in the Northwest and Northeast, where 48 per cent of girls were married by age 15 and 78 per cent were married by age 18.
In a statement by its media and communications manager, Kunle Olawoyin, Save the Children urged the government at all levels to prioritize the passage into law of the Child Rights Act (2003).
Olawoyin said: “The “State of the Nigerian Girl Report – An Incisive Diagnosis of Child Marriage explains the current and prevailing socio-cultural norms and practices in Nigeria around child marriage to capture the approximate state of Nigerian girls.
“It shows that child marriage is more prevalent in the Northwest and Northeast of Nigeria, where 48 per cent of girls were married by age15 and 78 per cent were married by age 18.
“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 per cent while men accounted for 6 per cent.
“The percentage of young people aged 15-19 years who are currently married or in a union for women was 22.2 per cent 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 per cent while men accounted for 18.7 per cent.
“This is proof that Early Child Marriage affects quite a large number of women and girls.”
He said the evidence showed “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.”
Reflecting on the report, Maryam Ahmed, Save the Children International Nigeria’s Youth Ambassador said: “Children especially the girls are among the most affected by poverty in Nigeria. Childhood poverty affects their capacity to attain their full potential. Child marriage is widely considered a way out of poverty.
“Families of the poor and vulnerable must be provided with social safety nets to support the education of the girl-child. It is one of the most effective ways to lift the girl child out of poverty. Social protection services, livelihoods and economic independence contribute to delay early child and forced marriage.”
Mercy Gichuhi, Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria described Child Early Forced Marriage “as 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.”