Combating the Menace of Girl Child Marriage in Nigeria

A man and his child bride

Written by Jolene

August 19, 2020

Over 12 million girls are married out before the age of 18 every year according to UNICEF statistics. Girl child marriage is being practiced across countries, cultures, and regions. Northern Nigeria is one of the many other places that practice child marriage. This has constituted a large number of girls marking an end to their childhood and any possibility of personal growth and development through robing the adolescence from these young girls. Girls are forced to assume the roles of women, adults, and mothers. However, several N.G.O. had sprung up in the last decade to fight this problem and possibly come up with a solution to abolishing this drawback.

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Early child marriages anywhere in the world stand to intervene with the health, psychological well-being, and formal education of girls. This has sadly become a norm among many ethnical groups in the country, even though it is predominantly more common in the Northern part of the country. The tradition is driven by poverty just to reinforce social ties in other to create financial stabilities to the benefactor families and improve their social status. Almost 48% of girls in The North West and North East are married off by the age of 15, while 78% are married by age 18.

Factors Leading to Child Marriage

Poverty, Cultural, traditional and religious factors are among the many factors that contribute gravely to the high number of child marriages in our society. Broken homes and economic crises are also a basic factor that can’t be disregarded. Child marriages in northern Nigeria are mostly prevalently practiced in rural, underdeveloped, and poor communities, where women are seen as a means to an end. The devastating economic hardship in Nigeria is a major contributing factor to making the nation being ranked as the 11th highest contributor to the rise in child marriage in the world with an estimated 42% of girls being married off before the age of 18.

Effects of Early Marriage

Due to being married off early, little or zero health care is being provided to these girls. They get exposed to many risks like depression, cervical cancer, malaria, miscarriage, and other diseases. Early pregnancy makes girls more predisposed to the risk of losing their life, increased premature labor, and maternal death. Medical complications such as Vesico-Vagina Fistula (VVF) And Rectum Vagina Fistula (RVF) are also common, as over 150,000 girls are affected according to The W.H.O.

I once met and spoke to a young Jamila, who had big ambitions. The entire concept of sciences fascinates her. She had always wanted to be a nurse to help her mum who suffers from severe back pain. All those dreams vanished, as her father arranged her marriage the moment she reached her penultimate year in Secondary school. Jamila had miscarriages twice and now struggles with physical and mental illness.

Ending Child Marriage

Female child education reduces the chances of infant mortality, promotes health, improves and raises economic productivity cohorts, enhances political participation, and prepares the ground for educating the next generation. In ending child marriages, we must consider accelerating our efforts to help change the lives of girls and young women by understanding the complex drivers behind the practice in a different context, identify the variables that hinder their growth in the society and implement all necessary assistance the society needs to develop and enhance the social-political wellbeing of women and female child.

The United Nations Human Rights Council had adopted its third resolution on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM), under a theme of ‘consequences of child marriage. The resolution— led by The Netherlands and co-sponsored by 77 countries— was adopted without a vote. These— and other actions of many NGOs, Governments and corporate bodies will help curb this menace. Society will be better for it when girls are allowed to develop their full potentials.

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