Leaders from the various communities that made up the Kwali Area Council have pledged their readiness to end early marriage among the girl child in the council, while also encouraging early education among the girls.
The leaders made their pledges on Wednesday at a Town Hall Meeting organised by Actionaid Nigeria (AAN) in partnership with Ford Foundation and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The meeting has its theme” Ending Early Child Marriage and Other Harmful Cultural Practices Against Children”.
Mrs Florence Ogidan, President, Market Women Association in the council, said given the child in early marriage was detrimental to the future of any society.
Ogidan, while narrating the ordeal of a 25-year-old member and mother of five children, said she was pushed to give out her 12-year-old daughter for marriage because of poverty.
She added that the problems of this particular member got worse as the daughter was not adequately catered for saying she has however regretted her action of giving out her daughter out for marriage at a tender age.
Ogidan, however, pledged to sensitise the women folks in the council while also pledging to sponsor a child to get education.
She also called on the organiser to as a matter of responsibility identify such group of people in the society and cater for their needs.
Also, Mr Idris Useni, Chairman, Okada Riders Association, made commitment to preach to his members on the dangers of early marriage.
Mr Yakubu Festus, President, Persons with Disabilities, called on government at all levels to rise up to the challenge while making laws for outright arrest of parents who give out their children for petty trading as well as early marriages.
Meanwhile, Mr Danladi Chiya, Chairman, Kwali Area Council, said it was a taboo among the Gbaghi people to give out underage girls for marriages.
According to him, it is unfortunate that statistics put it that 43 pet cent of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th birthday and 18 per cent before before the age of 15.
“This figure is alarming that if not nip in the bud, we would wake up tomorrow to find out that our future women leaders are lost.
“In the area council, we have outlined programmes that will help address the issues of early child marriage and other harmful cultural practices.
“We have highlighted programme like enlightenment campaigns on girl child education, female genital mutilation, child abuse among others as recommended in the Child Rights Act (CRA) of 2003.
” Since it is one problem that cannot be addressed effectively if not addressed collectively, I want to assure ActionAid of the council’s maximum support and cooperation in ensuring that this problem is addressed effectively,” he said.
However, Mr Adewale Adeduntan, Social Mobilisation Lead, AAN said ending the menace was a collective responsibilities starting from the household.
Adeduntan, who was represented by Mrs Geraldine Onyeka, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, AAN said early child marriage had a lot of implications including negative that if not handled could impact on the economy.
“We are trying to sensitise the people on ending early child marriage knowing that early child marriage has so many implications both on the economy, poverty and so many other health issues.
“So, the essence of this is that if we encourage more of education, we see it as a way to also promote or bring up the age at which these people go for marriage and as well telling the girls/children alone are insufficient to solve this problem.
“So we are also looking at other people that are also stakeholders, talking about parents, religious leaders, community leaders to join in this campaign to encourage children especially female children to go to school,” he said.
Mr Olusegun Olorunfemi, Coordinator, Child Protection Network (CPN) said early chid marriage could lead to the carriage of sexually transmitted diseases.
He called on parents to ensure that the education of their children/wards was accorded with priority to avoid falling prey to the menace.
Also, Mrs Tabitha Auta, Rtd. Chief Matron, while speaking on the health implications of early child marriage said the problems of Vesico-Viginal Fistula (VVF) could be traced to early child marriage as the child was not matured for the process of child bearing.
Auta added that early child marriage could also result to inferticide, stoppage of education of the child as well as increase the risk of domestic violence of the child.