The Federal Government has developed a technical working group comprises of all the stakeholders aimed to develop policies and legislation that will end girl child marriage in the country, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan has said. Senator Alhassan disclosed this in Abuja, just as the Chairman of the National Population Commission, NPC, Chief Eze Duruiheoma, charged state governments yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act to urgently do so for the welfare of the Nigerian children.
The duo, who spoke at a media briefing to commemorate the 2016 world population day, themed; “Investing in teenage girls” organised by the National Population Commission, NPC, agreed that early child marriage is an act of violent against girl child. In his address, the Chairman of NPC, Eze Duruiheoma regretted that the conditions in which majority of the teenage girls live and the challenges they have to surmount on a daily basis cut a pathetic picture.
He said, “Without education, in poor health, and with little or no control over her body, the future of the teenage girl in Nigeria imperilled, and her potential may never be realized.
The challenges and obstacles faced by a teenage girl multiply if she lives in a village and is from a poor household. Quoting some statistics from the 2006 Population and Housing Census, Duruiheoma said the data indicated Nigeria’s teenage population aged 13-19 was 20, 458,601 or 14.6% of the total population out of which the teenage girls constituted 10,001,965 or 7.2% of the total population. The NPC boss added that, “By 2016, the population of the teenage girl increased to 13,787,755.”
According to him, “Access of the teenage girls to reproductive health services and information is severely limited thereby aggravating cases of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted disease, STD, including HIV. The use of any planning method is 6.1% among women aged 15-16despite the fact that 61.1% of women in the age group are sexually active.” He said, “With the increasing spate of insecurity and organised crimes in Nigeria, the teenage girls, more than their counterparts, have been victims of various types of physical violent and abuse including rape, kidnapping, child trafficking and torture.”
He lamented that,” It is worthy to note that teenage girls have become tools in the hands of the Boko Haram insurgents who constantly deploy them for various activities including suicide bombings to carry out mass killing.” Duruiheoma, who warned that we have paid lip service to the empowerment of the teenage girls for too long, said, “The time act is now.” He added that, “No nation can lay claim to development until its teenagers have equal rights and opportunities to lead a healthy life and free from culturally induced attitudes and negative practices that limit their capacities to make meaningful contributions to national development.”
In her remarks, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, who was represented by Mrs, Georgete Azogu, the Director, Child Development in the ministry, said, the situation of teenage girls in Nigeria was appalling. She said, “We know that history of early marriage is violent against girl child because it is depriving children their right to aspire high, the right to develop, the right to contribute effectively to the nation building.
“We are aware of the peculiarity of this country, we are aware of the traditional areas of the early girl child marriage. We are all aware, we are also aware of the negative impact of not trying to stop it. In 2014, the African Union, AU, launched the campaign and last year in Zambia, Nigeria was there too, where they held a first summit on girl child, in which many countries were selected to lead the process and Nigeria happened to be one.
“We have developed a technical working group comprises of all the stakeholders; we have gotten the Directors and State directors of child Development to be part of it. As I am talking to you now, we have a consultant going round to engage the states and all the stakeholders, within NGOs, faith based organisations, everybody to be part of it.
“So, the way we are sensitizing I don’t think they will not key into it having seen the negative implication of child marriage. Let me let you know that child marriage is not limited to any particular area of the country. It is across the whole country, the whole states. “It has nothing to do with this religion or states. It is in everywhere. Go to the East you will see child marriage, go to central Nigeria you will see, west you see child marriage, and the impact is very, very destructive to our young ladies.”
She stressed that, “Today adolescence is the adult of tomorrow. As we all commemorate 2016 world population day, I urge stakeholders at all level to take appropriate measures to ensure the adolescence girls meet their full potentials.
“I would like to use this opportunity to intimate you that Child marriage is one of the major challenges affecting investment in teenage girls in Nigeria. The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development along other stakeholders is planning to convening soon a national lunch of campaign to end child marriage in Nigeria.”