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25 Million Child Brides In Nigeria: FG, UNICEF, UNFPA Collaborate Against Underage Marriage

Child marraige is associated with severe forms of violence against women and girls.

Nigeria’s federal government has commenced engagements with relevant United Nations (UN) agencies and other stakeholders to end the practice of early child marriage in the country.

The agencies are the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

UNICEF’s Country Representative, Ms. Cristian Munduate, who spoke in Abuja at a National Dialogue on Ending Child Marriage in Nigeria, said that Nigeria had nearly 25 million child brides with prevalence in Bauchi, Jigawa, and Zamfara states.

Munduate said child marriage was a harmful practice under international human rights law, which was often associated with severe forms of violence against women and girls, including intimate partner violence.

“In Nigeria, there are nearly 25 million child brides; with alarming prevalence rates in states such as Bauchi which has 74 percent child brides.

“Also, Jigawa has 72 percent of its children getting married before the age of 18, Katsina has little less at 69 percent and Zamfara has nearly 67 percent of its children getting married.’’

While calling for more investment in education for all children, the country representative said the practice of child marriage not only violated human rights but also hindered Nigeria’s social and economic development.

“A recent study by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and UNICEF estimates an annual cost of $10 billion as the economic burden of child marriage to the nation.

“The study also projects a potential GDP boost of nearly 25 percent upon its eradication.

“The consequences of child marriage ripple through society, impacting not only the lives of child brides but the entire fabric of our nation,” she said.

Also, the Deputy Representative of UNFPA, Mr. Koessan Kwawu, said the practice had adverse effects on the health, education, and future opportunities of the child.

He called on stakeholders to seek an end to the practice.

On her part, Minister, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, stressed the role of all stakeholders in meeting the target of ending child marriage by 2030.

Kennedy-Ohanenye said there was a need to educate and engage traditional, religious women groups and other stakeholders at the community level on the negative effects of the practice on the girl-child.

Wife of Kwara Governor and Chairperson of the Nigerian Governor’s Spouses Forum, Prof. Olufolake Abdulrazaq, said that ending child marriage in Nigeria involved leveraging on the instruments of the law.

“Also, there is a need for community efforts and the good standing of leaders of socio-cultural and religious institutions; civil society organisations, and development partners to assess the concerns posed by child marriage.

“As well as getting rid of endemic dysfunctional aspects of the various cultural traditions in the country which have an incorrect gender discriminatory norm,” she said.

Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, represented by Emir of Zamfara, Alhaji Attahiru Ahmed, said there was a need for children to attain at least 18 years with a minimum of secondary school education before getting married.

Similarly, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Daniel Okoh, represented by the Methodist Church, Nigeria, Dr. Michael Akinwale, harped on the need for investment in the future of children to end child marriage.

Michael Olugbode

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