Monday, October 4, 2010

The fangs of Child Marriage: Saving the future generation - By Yomi Oyeleke

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.”


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