Child Bride Abolishment: A fair Start for Nigeria’s Inclusive Social Development

Child Bride Abolishment: A fair Start for Nigeria’s Inclusive Social Development

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

A couple of years ago, Forbes posed a similar query to more than one hundred kindergarten-elderly kids and the results weren’t astonishing. As usual, many envisaged being: superheroes, princesses, astronauts. Unfortunately, these formidable dreams and aspirations mostly become mirages when they forcefully get married or marry at ages where they can’t aptly make sound decisions yet. Whilst it saddens that the bulk of these categories are those from poor/disenfranchised families or communities which is synonymous to under-developed countries, developing countries  also have their shares in this social injustice, as L.M Kopelman (2016) reports that; over 14 million forced marriages of minors occur annually in developing countries.

According to the World Bank; whooping percentages of 76%, 71.5%, 68.7% are still highly prevalent in Niger, Chad and Bangladesh respectively. Whereas, GirlsNotBride, a coalition of over 400 Civil Society Organization (CSO) to end Child Marriage, reveals that 17% of Nigerian Girls are married before they turn 15, while 44% are married before their eighteenth birthday, therefore totaling 61%.

Numerous community mapping which includes that of UNESCO’s GirlsforGirls (G4G) Initiative have aptly shown that children are not going to school and realized that even when girls are enrolled in schools, when they get to primary four, there is a drop in attendance.

Drivers

Destitution, poor instructive accomplishment, cultural and religious persuasions also coupled with the despicable fact that educational infrastructure which ought to be an instrument for delayed marriage has failed to salvage the situation due to its epileptic state most especially in Northern Nigeria.

Socio-cultural persuasion which relates more to traditional inheritance and cultural heritage has to be addressed in a way without spurring schism or hampering cultural sustainability.

Whilst the global community is devoted to halting this practice and progress is being made,  recent statistics indicated that every two seconds, a female becomes a baby bride and unless we do something to reduce those numbers, an extra 1.2 billion women will be married by  2050. It is apparent that Child Marriage is a hindrance to our visionary goals (Sustainable Development Goals- SDGs 2030) and hampering our chances of a better tomorrow; therefore we must tackle these drivers.

SDGs Threats

Here are the dangers posed  by Child marriage and here’s why this should be halted.

  1. Inadequate Human Capacity/Chain of Poverty

SDG1: No Poverty and SDG2: Zero Hunger

When a girl is married off whilst still being a child, this can often mean the end of her education and her ability to become financially independent. Women who are employed reinvest 90% of their earnings back into their families whilst elevating themselves, siblings and family out of poverty.  Also, Child brides tend to hardly contribute in the development of their communities.

Another important benefit from ending child marriage would be an increase in women’s expected earnings in the labor market. Due in large part to the impact of child marriage on education, women who marry as children have, on average, earnings that are nine percent lower than if they had married later. In Nigeria, this equals to $7.6 billion annually in lost earnings and productivity.

Therefore, this threatens Nigeria’s target on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 & 2 if unprecedented efforts aren’t geared towards halting this.

  1. High Mortality Rate

SDG3: Good Health & Well Being

Where child marriages are most prevalent, we tend to have higher risk of complications as well as child and maternal mortality which is due to lack of appropriate nutrition as well as the fact that their bodies are not fully matured before conceptions.  Also, numerous researches have shown that these categories of persons are vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence.

Therefore, this threatens Nigeria’s target on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 & 2 if unprecedented efforts aren’t geared towards halting this.

  1. Threat to Peace

SDG17: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Child brides are more likely to be victims or actors of domestic violence. In Nigeria, there have been saddening tales about even loss of lives due to domestic violence as a result of this.

  1. Gender Inequality

SDG4: Quality Education & SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

Having a decline in the population of primary/secondary school girls in the classroom indicates a bias society. For instance, whilst emphasis is made on educating the girl child, most especially in Nigeria, educating the male child is a priority in Southern Nigeria. Development must be inclusive and aptly cut across all tiers of the society. In fact, empowering the Girls, implies empowering a family, a community and a state and this is more subtle.

This would strategically address the SDGs 5 Target 1.1; End all forms of discrimination, Target 5.3; Eliminate all harmful practices such as Child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations, Target 5.5; ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

National Efforts to Halt Child Marriage

Nigeria has the Child Rights Act, which was adopted in 2003 and which sets the age of marriage at 18 years. However, there are no stringent laws or penalties backing violating this. Also taking into cognizance the variations in the socio-religio-cultural persuasions, there would be need for a more inclusive engagement and resolutions across all tiers of the society on sub-national entities bases.

The Way Forward

For as long as child marriages continue to exist, there is a high tendency of having low human development index, instability, violence, global mortality rate and huge educational gap across gender in the society. Nigeria would need to halt this by developing a time framed inclusive engagement and resolutions across all tiers of the society on sub-national entities bases, for with every child bride we lose a future potential eader, change maker and hampers our chances for a better society.

 

References

  1. https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf
  2. Loretta. M. Kopelman (2016). The Forced Marriage of Minors: A Neglected Form of Child Abuse. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073110516644208
  3. 5 Reasons why ending child marriage can improve millions of women & girls’ health – Girls Not Brides [online] Girls Not Brides: Available at: https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/5-reasons-end-child-marriage-improve-maternal-health/
  4. Health- Girls Not Brides [Online] Girls Not Brides. Available at https://www.girlsnotbride.org/themes/health/ [Accessed 2 Nov. 2017]
  5. World Bank (2017). Child Marriage Will Cost Developing Countries Trillions of Dollars by 2030, says WorldBank/ICRW Report. [online] Available at http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2017/06/26/child-marriage-will-cost-developing-countries-trillions-of-dollars-by-2030-says-world-bankicrw-report [Accesses 2 Nov. 2017].
  6. World Health Organization (2017). Maternal mortality, http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality
  7. The Economic and Social Impacts of Child Marriage. http://live.worldbank.org/economic-social-impacts-child-marriage
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