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Save the Children: There are 23m child brides in Nigeria — gender equality under threat

Save the Children International (SCI) says the federal government should establish technical working groups in states to end child marriage.

The organisation made the call in its report titled “Budgeting to end child marriage” launched in Abuja on Friday by Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, minister of women affairs.

According to the report, Nigeria is home to 23 million child brides, with two in every five women married as children.

The report indicated that in northern Nigeria, 48 percent of women are married before age 15 while 78 percent are married before age 18.5

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“Child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of adolescent pregnancy and is linked to maternal mortality, poor education, ongoing exposure to GBV, illiteracy and intergenerational poverty,” the report reads.

“This threat to girls’ rights and gender equality requires multisectoral solutions that engage health, education, justice and child protection sectors as well as girls and their communities.

”It is a challenge that demands an immediate and substantial government response, backed by sufficient and consistent budget allocations.”

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The report said budgeting to end child marriage in Nigeria is fragmented, noting that there are no line-item budgets for ending child marriage.

“State and federal level budgeting for ending child marriage (ECM)-related sectors experience large fluctuations, rising in some years and falling in others,” the report said.

“Budget allocations to ECM-related sectors need to be increased and consistently maintained to match the growing number of girls affected by child marriage in Nigeria.

“Increased, consistent and targeted budgeting to end child marriage – a multisectoral costing framework for Nigeria’s National Strategy for ECM would provide critical support for this.

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“The Nigerian Government should consider the establishment of technical working groups to end child marriage in all the States of Nigeria.

“This will improve coordination and create a strong system made up of relevant stakeholders who will come together to develop a common work plan and monitor implementation.

“Thus, provide an agency that will be held accountable, making sure the committee is active and holds regular meetings where reviews can be made.”

Speaking at the event, Idris Mohammed, permanent secretary at the ministry of women affairs, said child marriage is a violation of human rights and a serious obstacle to the development and well-being of our future generation.

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“The report being presented today is a culmination of tireless effort, research and collaboration among dedicated individuals and organisations who have come together with a shared goal to end child marriage and ensure a brighter future for our children,” Mohammed said.

“This report is not just a document, it is a testament to our collective commitment to the rights and dignity of our children.

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“It sheds light on the extent of this issue, its causes and the impact it has on young lives. It also provides a road map for the actions we must take to bring an end to child marriage.”

Also speaking, Faton Krasniqi, SCI interim country director, said budgeting on any child rights agenda is an important step towards delivering the government’s pledge to protect children.

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”Child marriage erodes and dries the future of the girls, their dreams and hope in life. One of the girls who unfortunately end up in early, child and forced marriage could possibly be someone who invents and has a solution for some of the major challenges that the world is facing today,” Krasniqi said.

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