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The Presidency yesterday joined hands with the United Nations (UN), religious and traditional leaders, the Canadian government and other stakeholders to launch a major campaign to end early child marriage in Nigeria.
The latest move to end the practice was launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, making Nigeria the 16th country to join the campaign by the African Union (AU).
Osinbajo described early child marriage as a disturbing occurrence in the country.
He stressed that though Nigeria had made positive advances in ending child marriage through the enactment of the Child Right Act, only 24 states had domesticated the Act.
According to him: « There is evidence of correlation between child marriage and poverty. West and Central Africa have the highest rate of child marriage in the world. Two out of five girls are married before they are 18. There is unassailable proof that early marriage affects the physical, mental and psychological health of the girl-child. There is evidence that there is correlation between illiteracy and child marriage. »
The VP called for greater education for girls in the country.
He added: « I urge the states which have not made provisions for the education of girls who are out of school to do so. Barriers to girls education must be removed. »
The government also launched the national strategy report on child marriage. This is a guideline to raise awareness and address the harmful impact of child marriage.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (right); Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Phyllis Nwokedi during the launch of the campaign to end child marriage, in Abuja…yesterday. photo THE GUARDIAN
The report advocates policies and actions to protect the rights of girls and remove barriers to law enforcement.
« The campaign launched today is a call to action. It is an attempt to save the lives of adolescent girls forced into early marriage, many of whom become pregnant and are at a higher risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth, » said the UN Resident Representative in Nigeria, Muhammed Malik.
He added: « These complications are a leading cause of death among adolescent girls in countries like Nigeria; which is unnecessary and unacceptable. »
The Minister of Women and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, stressed how child marriage threatens the lives and health of girls and limit their potential.
In 2015, an estimated six million girls were married by age 15 years. Child marriage is extremely prevalent in the Northeast and Northwest geo-political zones of Nigeria. Northern Nigeria has one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world with an estimated 65 per cent of children married off before the age of 18 years.
The campaign to end child marriage in Africa was launched by the AU on May 29, 2014 during the fourth Conference of Ministers of Social Development.