The Nigerian Government in collaboration with the United Nation on Tuesday launched a major campaign to bring an end to child marriage in the country before 2030.
According to child rights act of 2013, an act that criminalizes all forms of violence against children in Nigeria, The new policy was launched by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja with the aim to reduce girl child marriage in the country.
Osinbajo 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.
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
United Nations represented by The Resident Coordinator, Muhammed Malik, said 23 million Nigerian girls were married before 18 years.
“As United Nations, we are proud to support Nigeria as the 16th country to move to end child marriage, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals that we have pledged to achieve by the year 2030.
“With a national prevalence of 43 percent of women marrying before the age of 18, Nigeria has the highest absolute number of child marriage in the world, with a total of 23 million,” he said.
United Nations, Canadian government and other leading health organizations are supporting the policy to ensure its success.