By Abiodun Azi
Lagos, Sept. 9, 2020
A gender activist, Adeola Awogbemi, has decried the practice of forcing the girl-child into marriage, saying it will expose her to unprepared adulthood.
Awogbemi, Consultancy/Capacity Development
Director, First Future Leadership, spoke as a keynote speaker at a programme on “Ending Child Marriage in Lagos State: Stakeholders’ Call to Action’’.
It was organised by the Centre for Women’s Health and Information (CEWHIN), with the support of Rise Up – an initiative of the Public Health Institute of the John Hopkins University, U.S.
According to her, Child marriage is a global issue that affects disproportionately more girls than boys.
“Child marriage is one of the most painful and disturbing problems in the country.
“Usually, it is done in the poor regions, where people force their young children, especially daughters, to get married, quite often to a total stranger.
“Forty-four per cent of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th birthday and 18 per cent are married before the age of 15.
“Also, UNICEF, Nigeria has the 3rd highest absolute number of child brides in the world 3,538,000 – and the 11th highest prevalence rate of child marriage globally.
“Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Nigeria, child marriage is also driven by several other factors,’’ Awogbemi said.
She identified such other factors to include: level of education; political and economic ties; gender norms; violence against girls and poverty.
On poverty, she said: “The humanitarian crisis in North Eastern Nigeria left more than two million people displaced since 2016.
“Families facing extreme famine and living in refugee camps sometimes marry off their daughters because they lack alternative survival options.”
Commenting on education, she said: “Seventy-three per cent of Nigerian women with no formal education were married before 18, compared to only nine per cent who had completed higher education.
“Further education is almost impossible for some girls, who have few choices, but to depend on their husbands for the rest of their lives.’’
She said that some girls were married off by their parents to enhance political and social alliances with rich families or business partners and to improve their economic status.
Awogbemi said, on gender norms, that some Nigerian men reportedly prefer to marry children, because girls are not accepted as equal partners within marriages, which contribute to a sense of low self-worth.
On commitment by the Federal Government, she said that Nigeria was committed to eliminating child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Nigeria signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council, calling for a resolution on child marriage.
“Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.
“The CEWHIN has also been working with various groups in communities in Lagos State to ensure an end of marriage and they have specifically worked in Agege and Mushin communities recording some mile stones,’’ Awogbemi said.
Also, Mrs Tolulope Ajayi, CEWHIN Programme Officer had earlier said that the NGO had trained 30 young ladies in Agege and Idi-Araba Communities respectively on the ills of child marriage, and the existence of the Child’s Right Law 2007 in Lagos State.
Ajayi said that the NGO set out on an advocacy to end the practice of child marriage in Hausa Communities of Idi-Araba and Agege, Lagos State.
“The anti-child marriage advocacy campaign is supported by the Rise up Initiative of the Public Health Institute of the John Hopkins University, Oklahoma, U.S.
“The project set out with a baseline survey which confirmed the existence of a regular practice of child marriage in the focal communities.
“It also create community awareness of the ills in the practice of child marriage,” she said.