BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights participated in a rally/walk against Paedophiles and child sexual abusers on October 13, 2010. The walk was a response to the increasing reports of defilement of under aged children in schools and domestic settings. The walk was from Allen roundabout to the Deputy Governor’s Office, Alausa, Ikeja. The walk was organised by Gender Based Violence Response Network (GBVRN). Pupils from selected public and private schools in Lagos State also participated in the walk. Participants at the rally included the NGOs, pupils from selected public and private schools whilst St. Nicholas Hospital volunteered an ambulance and medical personnel for the walk.
The protest rally started with a 15 minutes talk at about 10.00 am at the Allen Round About, Ikeja. Persons who made brief speeches before the rally included the organisers namely: Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma; Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin of Women Arise, Pastor Nike Adeyemi of the Real Woman Foundation, Mr. Nelson Ekujumi of United Action for Democracy, Mr. Andy Nkemneme of Grassroots Empowerment Initiative, Mrs Josephine Anunobi, Proprietress of Divine Offspring Schools. This was followed by the walk to the office of Deputy Governor where she received the group and a protest letter was handed over to her on behalf of the network by Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma.
Representatives of the pupils also spoke to the Deputy Governor, Princess Sarah Adebisi Sosan on their concerns. The Deputy Governor promised to look into the concerns raised and reiterated that it’s an issue of national concern and that she would also bring it to the attention of other stakeholders. Also on hand to receive the delegation were the Permanent Secretaries and Directors at the Ministries of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and those of Education amongst others.
Despite the provision of the Child Rights Act (CRA) S.21 which prohibits and provides penalty for the marriage and betroth’al of a child under the age of 18, Child marriage is still very rampant in some states in Nigeria. One of such states is Adamawa. The emotional and psychological effect of this child marriage phenomenon takes a huge toll on the affected young girls.
In May 2010, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, in partnership with the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace (WLP), organized a leadership training for young girls between the ages of 13-18. The leadership training, which involved different exercises equipped the young girls with leadership skills and provided an opportunity for the girls to learn how to negotiate and build alliances in addressing problems and in advocating for their rights. Some of the girls were interviewed by a journalist from radio Adamawa. When asked about the issues they desired to be addressed in their communities they aired their distaste for child marriage and made the request that parents should educate their girl-child rather than give them out in marriage. The young beneficiaries also promised to be advocates of change in challenging the existing practice on child marriage by educating their siblings and peers. The outcome of the training showed that investing in the young girls is indeed a wise practice to protect future generation of girls from the menace of the culture of child marriage.
Beneficiaries of the Leadership training relayed their experiences three months after the training.
“My friend is very young but her parents want her married. She has been taught it is the culture, and told that she must obey her parents though she is unhappy about it, there is no where to run to, even her education is at stake because she doesn’t know what to expect after marriage, however, I encouraged her not to give up on her studies”-Maimuna Hassan
“I learnt a lot from the leadership training. Since the training, I’ve been talking to my classmates, my seniors and juniors and their reactions have been positive. The only problem around here is the issue of Child marriage. One of my classmates is about to be married off during this vacation and am yet to see her”- Cecelia Goodfrey
“Since the training, I’ve been exhibiting good leadership qualities and teaching others to do so. I’ve not heard of any case of Child marriage in my school in the last three months.”- Sadiya Dahiru
“I have been educating my peers on good leadership qualities and gender issues as we were taught during the training. While some have shown great interest others do not want to change their behaviour. The issue of child marriage is still a challenge because the parents are involved and it is done in the name of culture. My classmate was recently married off to a man in Abuja by her parents. She is very unhappy about the development and I heard that her husband in Abuja has divorced her because of her unhappiness towards the whole arrangement. I hope her parents will allow her to continue her education.”-Fadimatu Mohammed
As I listened to the stories of these young girls who have been victims cum survivors of child marriage, I consoled myself with a popular slogan of BAOBAB which says “You cannot change the past but you can try to change the future.”