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How UNICEF ‘saved 13-year-old from early marriage’ in Niger

How UNICEF ‘saved 13-year-old from early marriage’ in Niger
April 15
18:29 2021

Basira Umaru, a 13-year-old girl, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) saved her from being married out in her early teens.

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The primary six pupil narrated her experience during a two-day consolidation meeting with mentors and pupils on girl-child enrolment and retention covering nine LGAs supported by UNICEF in Niger.

The meeting, which was held on Thursday, had discussions on the impact of the UNICEF girl-child enrolment intervention programme — G4G/He4She — and the assurance of sustainability through community-based teams and institutions.

Basira said she was enrolled in school by her elder sister who lives in Makera, but her parents made repeated attempts to marry her off.

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“When my parents came, my elder sister brought them to my school to meet our headmistress who doubles as my mentor. After telling my mentor of their intention, my mentor hid me and told them she has not seen me,” she said.

“When they eventually left, my mentor called me and told me everything and she said she will keep me under her custody. Since then, I have been living with her.”

While insisting that she isn’t ready for marriage, Basira said she had never been in contact with the man as she desires to pursue her education and become a medical doctor.

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She, however, noted that it is the tradition of the community to marry out girls at an early age.

The 13-year-old pupil said the G4G programmes she attended created more awareness on the relevance of education.

Speaking on the importance of the programme for parents and children, Habiba Aliyu, a teacher at Etu Tasha primary school, Edati, Niger state, said girls’ enrolment in schools have increased in the region, as parents have become more aware of the importance of education.

“We had cases where three girls were about to drop out of school to be married off. The case was reported to the principal of the school and the community leader, who immediately swung into action to stop that,” Aliyu said.

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She added that the UNICEF intervention through the G4G/He4She programme has resulted in a decline in early marriage cases in the region.

Also sharing his experience, Solomon Yahaya, a pupil of Sa’idu Namaska primary school, Kontagora, explained how he enrolled a girl who was into hawking.

“I was on my way from school when I saw the girl hawking. I stopped and asked her if she wanted to go to school and she said yes. I followed her to meet with her parents to speak to them on her behalf,” he said.

“Afterward, her parents agreed to allow her go to school, and since then, we have been going to school together.”

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