NIGERIA. The youth-led NGO Bridge Connect Africa Initiative (BCAI) has called on the Kano state government to sign a child protection bill into law. The organization is worried about the high rate of child abuse and wants the state government to expedite action.
The Youth Fellows with the support of the Population Reference Bureau organized an informational conference. The Kano State Ministry of Education, civil society organizations, select NGOs, and lawyers were present at the discussion.
The conference was moderated by BCAI Executive Director Sani Muhammad, who covered aspects of child protection including child marriage, child sexual and gender-based violence, and access to education.
Representation of children´s rights
The meeting served to enhance the understanding of child protection and inspire the need for change in the state.
Giving a keynote address on the “Kano State Child Protection Bill: Progress and Challenges,” Secretary of the Kano State Child Protection Network, Hajiya Zainab Ahmad Sulaiman, highlighted the challenges on the issues of child welfare and acceptable age for marriage.
Coordinator for the movement against rape and sexual violence, Aliyu Samba, advocated for the need of everyone to work together to combat the menace of child marriage.
Presenting the Islamic perspective on child marriage, age of marriage, and the schools of thought and contestations that reinforce child marriage, Samba said that education can be used to combat this mentality.
The government assures their commitment
The Commissioner of Education Malam Nasiru Abdullahi Kwalli assured the readiness of the government toward ensuring free and compulsory education for all children in Kano state.
He explained the new policy on education also prioritizes sexual and gender-based violence faced by children in school.
Child marriage in Northern Nigeria
Northern Nigeria has the highest rate of child marriage in the world. The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in 2016 estimated that 65% of children below the age of 18 years are married off.
According to the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey, the median age of first marriage among women ages 20 to 49 and ages 25 to 49 in Kano state are 16 and 15.9 years, respectively. As a result, 27% of adolescent girls ages 15 to 19 have already begun childbearing. Consequently, around 45% of women are uneducated.
According to the World Bank, child marriage in Nigeria represents 7.6 billion USD in lost earnings and productivity every year.
Sani Muhammad claims child marriage is costing the Kano state government useful human resources while hinging the sustainable development of families and communities on the state.
Creating a brighter future for young girls
“The good news is that keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to delay marriage and give girls healthier lives and promising futures,” Muhammad claimed. “We urge the Kano state government to sign the child protection bill into law to prevent and protect girls from early forced marriage and ensure child protection.”
“Efforts to end child marriage and advance the health and rights of girls must be at the center of the state development agenda to end extreme poverty and ensure the protection of human rights for all, including children,” he concluded.