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78% of girls in Northern Nigeria marry before 18 – Report

A new report has stated that 78 per cent of girls in northern Nigeria are married off before the age of 18.

The report titled, ‘State of the Nigerian Girl Report – An Incisive Diagnosis of Child Marriage,’ was launched in Abuja yesterday, by the Save the Children group.

According to it: “Child marriage is more prevalent in the north-west and north-east of Nigeria, where 48 per cent of girls were married by age 15 and 78 per cent were married by age 18.

“Also, 44 per cent of girls are married before their 18th birthday and the country records as one of the highest rate of child marriage globally.”

The report further revealed that the percentage of people aged 20 – 49 years who were first married or in union before age 18 for women was 44.1 per cent, while men accounted for six per cent.

It noted that the percentage of young people aged 15-19 years who are currently married or in a union for women was estimated at 22.2 per cent while no man was in such a union.
In addition, the report estimated that the percentage of people from 15 – 49 years who are in a polygamous union – for women was 36.9 per cent, while men accounted for 18.7 per cent.

These, it stated, were proof that Early Child Marriage affects quite a large number of women and girls.

Furthermore, the report indicated that there was a clear and strong link between Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM) prevalence and endemic poverty, poor education outcomes, school dropout rates, a high rate of out-of-school children, and poor access to basic social, economic and healthcare services.

It also stated that despite the Compulsory Free and Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, lack of access to quality, free, safe, uninterrupted and inclusive education for girls remains a big driver of child marriage.

It added: “In Borno State, 89.13 per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 were first married before age 15.
“59 per cent of them had no education whatsoever; 42 per cent had some level of primary school education and 100 per cent had no secondary school education. Among women who are in a marital relationship or union, 46 per cent have spouses who are older by 10 years or more.”

The report noted that in Jigawa State, 78 per cent of women, aged 20-49 were first married before age 18; while 25 per cent of women aged 15-19 are presently married or in a union and 63 per cent of women dropped out of school to marry.

It revealed further that only eight per cent of women who married before age 18 are gainfully employed and earn above the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2020 national poverty line. It also showed that 65 per cent of fathers, mothers and mothers-in-law approve of CEFM.

Reacting to the report, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, said the country has the highest cases of child marriage in Africa with 23 million girls married before the age of 18 years.

According to her, being a girl child in Nigeria automatically makes the child vulnerable to issues such as denial of access to education, inequality, child marriage, social violence, exploitation and other negative vices.

The minister reiterated that out of the 13 million out-of-school children in the country, the majority were girls, “Only about 2 per cent of 15 to 19 year-old married girls are in school”.

She said: “15 out of the 20 countries with the highest cases of child marriage are in Africa and Nigeria is second to India.
“Nigeria has the highest numbers of child marriage in Sub-sahara Africa with about 23 million girls married in childhood. Traditional rulers must raise up as champions to end child marriage in Nigeria.

“Nigeria’s out-of-school children population is also the highest in the world. Out of the 13 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, the majority are girls. Only about 2 per cent of 15 to 19 year-old married girls are in school”.

Earlier, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the federal government has concluded plans to revamp Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the country.

He added that the government was working towards implementing universal health care coverage and urged state governors to improve the standards of their PHCs.

In her remarks, the country Director of SCI, Mercy Gichuhi, called on the state governors and Houses of Assembly to priorities the implementation of the 2003 Child Rights Act to end child marriage.

She, however, applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment to increase education funding to 22.5 per cent by the year 2025.

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