By G9ija

Save the Children International (SCI),  a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has said child marriage is still prevalent in North-West and North-East of Nigeria.

SCI Media and Communications Manager, Mr Kunle Olawoyi, make the disclosure this in a statement he signed and made available to newsmen in Dutse on Thursday.

The statement was issued after the launch of the organisation’s report on ”State of the Nigerian Girl Report – An Incisive Diagnosis of Child Marriage” in Abuja.

According to the report, 78 per cent of girls in the northern region of Nigeria marry before the age of 18.

“Child marriage is more prevalent in the North-West and North-East of Nigeria, where 48 per cent of girls were married by age 15 and 78 per cent were married by age 18.

“Forty-four per cent of girls are married before their 18th birthday and the country records as one of the highest rates of child marriage globally.

“A staggering 78 per cent of girls in the northern region of Nigeria are married before the age of 18.

It said the report explained the current and prevailing socio-cultural norms and practices in Nigeria around child marriage to capture the approximate state of the Nigerian girls.

It said that the report brought to the fore the dire state of the Nigerian girl-child at the national level and its negative impact on education, empowerment, evidence-based gaps in socio-cultural beliefs and systems.

It also provided recommendations for moving forward to addressing these gaps in child marriage in Nigeria.

According to the report, the percentage of people aged between 20 and 49, who were first married or in union before age 18 for women was 44.1 per cent, while men accounted for six per cent.

It said percentage of young people aged between 15 and 19, who are currently married or in a union for women was 22.2 per cent, while no man was in such a union.

The report said that percentage of people from 15 to 49 years who are in a polygamous 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.

“And 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,” it said.

According to the statement, Purity Oriaifo, Save the Children International Nigeria’s Girl Champion, 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”.

The statement further stated that various cultural, traditional and social practices encourage gender-discriminatory norms against girls and women.

It said that 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 discovered,” it said.

The statement quoted Maryam Ahmed, SCI’s Youth Ambassador as saying: “Children, especially the girls are among the most affected by poverty in Nigeria.

“Childhood poverty affects their capacity to attain full potential. Child marriage is widely considered as a way out of poverty.

“Families of the poor and vulnerable must be provided with social safety nets to support education of the girl-child.

“It is one of the most effective ways to lift up the girl child out of poverty. Social protection services, livelihoods and economic independence contributes to delay early child and forced marriage.”

SCI Country Director, Ms Mercy Gichuhi, said  Child Early Forced Marriage is a human rights violation and a form of gender-based violence (GBV) that robs children the ability to make decisions about their lives and disrupts their education.

It also subjects them to become more vulnerable to violence and discrimination and prevents their full participation in economic, political, and social spheres.

The statement added that in Borno, 89.13 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49, were first married before age 15.

It said 59 per cent of them had no education whatsoever, 42 per cent had some level of primary school education and 100 per cent had no secondary school education.

It said among women who were in a marital relationship or union, 46 per cent had spouses who were older by 10 years or more.

The statement said also in Jigawa 78 per cent of women, aged between 20 and 49, were first married before age 18.

It said 25 per cent of women aged between 15 and 19 were presently married or in a union, while 63 per cent of women dropped out of school to marry.

The reports said that only eight per cent of women who married before age of 18 were gainfully employed and earned above the National Bureau of Statistics  2020 national poverty line.

It said that 65 per cent of fathers, mothers and mothers-in-law approved CEFM.

“Save the Children calls for the provision and the full implementation of policies and strategies to end child marriage.

“The governments at all levels should prioritise the passage into law of the Child Rights Act (2003).

“This will provide children with the necessary legal policy framework for seeking justice when their rights are denied or abused.

“Save the Children believes that every child deserves a future. In Nigeria and around the world.

“We work every day to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm,”