The co-chair of a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) to end child marriage in Nigeria, Ms. Carolyn Seaman has raised the alarm over existing gaps in the policy process that protects the rights of children from early marriage and other harmful practices, including gender-based violence.
Seaman said this in a one-day dialogue session with CSOs and traditional leaders working to end child marriage in Nigeria organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, in collaboration with the development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) and other partners funded by the Ford Foundation yesterday (November 10, 2022) in Abuja.
She said until these gaps are addressed, the country is far from ending the child marriage menace. She added that ensuring the domestication of the Child Right Act (CRA) in the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT is a move towards ending child marriage.
Seaman said some states were yet to accept and domesticate the act which aims to protect children.
She lamented that some states where the act was already domesticated, fail to indicate the age a child should be married. “This is a gap.”
Seaman said more effort was required to mobilise action around domesticating the act to protect children across the country.
“Various efforts have been made and more states have signed the act but the concern now is the substance of the laws being signed, especially some of the northern states that are still consciously excluding the age of marriage,” she said.
Seaman said it remained important for the government to work with CSOs and other stakeholders, to know who was accountable for certain aspects and keep track of progress.
Also, she called for the improvement in the coordination and harmonisation of efforts as stakeholders working in the space.
A representative of the African Union (AU), Ms. Hermine Takam said domesticating and implementing the act would go a long way in aiding the country’s efforts to end child marriage.
Takam said statistics provided by the ministry of women’s affairs prove that many girls forced into early marriages are not getting justice.
She said there must be a strong government-led response and strategy to address the problems.
In his remarks, the Jakadan Gusau, Alhaji Abdullahi Maiwada said marrying off a child at an early age has lots of health consequences.
Maiwada said stakeholders across the country must come together to end child marriage.
He explained that collaborative efforts which involve working with traditional, religious and community leaders were required to end child marriage.
“It is important to involve girls, women and their families in an all-encompassing programme where there is enlightenment and awareness on the dangers of getting married at an age,” he said.