#PostcardsFromAfrica: HRH Emir Sanusi of Nigeria Speaks Out Against Child Marriage

The piece below was culled from the instagram page of HRH Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi [Muhammadu Sanusi II; Husband, father, grandfather, formerly Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Serving as 14th Fulani Emir and Ruler of Kano]

“(Marriage of women (girls) below 18 years) – Women (girls) are suffering from reproductive health challenges because of such marriages. Time has come (for) the Muslim community (to) live by the reality of economic recession and consequences of early marriage.

The era when people gave out their daughters in marriage at early ages and asked the husbands to wait till they were ripe was nothing but a deception. Accordingly, the strategy no longer works as it has led to cases of divorce and other ugly situations.

In the past the rich and the poor married four wives and bore between 30 and 40 children because the economy was not only buoyant, but also because people were relying on government for sustenance. The harsh economic realities now make it impossible for people to feed twice a day these days. Unfortunately our people do not change and somebody with virtually nothing still gives birth to 20 or 30 children and this must stop!

There is a need to peg the marriage age now because of the challenges early marriage is posing. The marriage age in Egypt at present is 18 while that of Malaysia and Morocco is 19 and 17 respectively. Why don’t we (Nigeria) urgently call for pegging of marriage ages within Muslim Ummah in Nigeria?

Nigerian Muslims also practice the Malikiyas School of thought as these countries. We should follow suit and peg our own marriage ages for our own good. I urge the relevant authorities to create a law that would punish anybody that gives birth to children and allows them to suffer. Most of these neglected children not only turn victims of social vices but also engage in (or are coerced into) terrorism.”

 

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WWN™ community commends HRH Sanusi for his advocacy on important causes and in particular, for his commitment to creating awareness about the scourge of child marriage, especially in Northern, Nigeria. Having open, respectful and fact-based conversations about these social issues are good places to start. Implementation of ideas can then follow as a matter of urgency.

Why is this statement by the Emir significant?

  • This was shared on his instagram platform – in our view, perhaps HRH SLS seems to be reaching out to a specific demographic -maybe fellow Northern elite (especially the younger generation). A possible outreach to awaken consciousness and a call to action to end child marriage and other challenges in the North such as Almajirinci.[When we factor in the reality that Nigeria has an estimated 65% Youth demographic, using social media would be an effective way for him to reach out directly to (and possibly influence), the next generation of leaders];
  • We suggest that in addition to using traditional electronic/print media and new media (social media platforms), the Emir also leads a series of sustainable, strategic, outcome-based and measurable stakeholders’ meetings offline, (in the north), with fellow traditional rulers, religious leaders, Northern elite, Non Governmental organizations, civil society and the political class;
  • Traditional & religious leaders can play a catalytic role in transforming a society’s values and cultural practices for the better;
  • Subsequent to the Emir’s call that each region in the Nation should adopt an enforceable minimum age for marriage, it is also an opportunity for the remaining 13 Northern states (out of 36 states in the Nation), to adopt and domesticate the Child Rights Act, Nigeria;
  • It is important to note that although child marriage is prevalent in Northern Nigeria, it is still practiced in other sections of the country. More grassroots advocacy is needed to curb the practice nation-wide;
  • We wish to commend advocacy groups like WRAPA Nigeria, for their relentless commitment towards issues affecting women and girls, such as child marriage, gender-based violence etc.
  • Representation matters -we need more females in leadership roles and in positions of influence; as policy makers, vocal advocates, financial supporters of quality education, and as mentors & role models for girls.

At WWN™, our approach to ending child marriage is hinged on a two-pronged strategy –
EDUCATION & ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT.

The latter for the parents (especially for the mothers), and the former, for the girl-child. Through countless field studies, we have discovered that the more women are economically empowered, the LESS chances there are that they would need the girl-child to help them in income-generating economic activities such as farming, craft-making, trading/hawking. And as a result, the more the girl-child is educated and the less possibility of child marriage. Everything in intrinsically linked. Religion, Culture, Socio-political, Economic factors perpetuate child marriage.

Through partnerships with organizations like Dawood Global Foundation and LADIESFUND® (under the EAG -Educate A Girl Program) and WWN™ proprietary #SEED4Her and #SEED4Him programs, we engage multiple stakeholders in rural, under-served communities across Africa, on the provision of access to quality, safe, functional, relatable, vocational/entrepreneurial education. We encourage and sponsor extra-curricular activities such as sports, leadership & journalism trainings, policy think tanks, historical societies, debate clubs, creative arts, STEM/ICT etc.

[Image source:WWN™ – Students of St Kizito Secondary School, Umudioka in a WWN Leadership Workshop]

We believe that the more the notion of “schooling/education” is made relatable, practical, interesting and dynamic for both parents and students, the more willing they are to engage with the process.

Education curricula must be aligned to labour market and direct environmental needs [A huge part of our model was developed based on the successful strategy of the Malawian Chief and Child/Education Advocate -Theresa Kachindamoto].

Some important national statistics on Child Marriage in Nigeria [Source: GirlsNotBrides.org]

  • In November 2016, Nigeria became the 17th country to launch the African Union campaign to end child marriage. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development launched on the same day a national strategy to end child marriage. The strategy’s vision is to reduce child marriage by 40% by 2020, and end the practice entirely by 2030.
  • In May 2015, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act was adopted to address the issue of female genital mutilation/cutting and other harmful traditional practices such as child marriage.
  • The Nigerian Constitution does not establish a minimum age of marriage.
  • The Child Rights Act, which was passed in 2003, sets the age of marriage at 18 years-old. However, only 23 of Nigeria’s 36 states have taken concrete steps to implement the minimum age of marriage.
  • Education is a strong indicator of whether a girl will marry as a child. 82% of women with no education were married before 18, as opposed to 13% of women who had at least finished secondary education.
  • In Nigeria, 43% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday. 17% are married before they turn 15.
  • Child marriage occurrences vary among regions – it is as high as 76% in the North West region and as low as 10% in the South East.
  • Data shows a 9% decline in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003

Interested in ending child marriage? QUALITY #Education4ALL is a powerful tool. Engage in your communities and with your government -as a policy maker, mentor, donor, advocate, etc. In other words, become an Education STAKEHOLDER. Until we own it, we can’t fix it.

Your starting point could be something as basic as finding out the number of children out of school in your community/village, or visiting the schools in your community, engaging with teachers and students to find out their needs and barriers…

We all have a role to play. Education is one of the most pivotal tools for social re-engineering and transformation. Inclusivity in Education benefits every single one of us. #GetInvolved, today. Start by sharing the video below: “Child Brides in the North in their own voices” by WRAPA (Follow them on twitter on @WrapaNG)

**This advocacy video below was produced in 2016 by WRAPA Nigeria -the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative and their partner organizations as part of their on-going campaign to end child and forced marriages in Nigeria.

Love, Light & Truth!

Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido (You may also find me on my Floetry page)

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