A report on the state of the Nigerian girl-child has one that the country has one the highest rates of child marriage globally.
The report said available statistics showed that 44 per cent of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th birthday, one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
The report released to mark this year’s International Day of the Girl, revealed that over 22,000 girls die annually from pregnancy and childbirth resulting from child marriage.
It indicated that West and Central Africa account for nearly half (9,600) of all estimated child marriage-related deaths globally, or 26 deaths a day, adding that the regional teenage maternal mortality rate was four times higher than anywhere else in the world.
It said although nearly 80 million child marriages globally have been prevented in the last 25 years, progress had stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only worsened inequalities that drive child marriage.
“With school closures, health services under strain or closed, and more families being pushed into poverty, women and girls face an increased risk of violence during lengthy lockdowns. A further 10 million girls are now expected to marry by 2030, leaving more girls at risk of dying,” the report hinted.
Sadly, the State of Nigerian Girls report has shown that these rates are not likely to decrease as Nigerian girls now live in one of the most difficult times as a result of armed conflict, humanitarian crisis, kidnapping, natural disaster, displacement, COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.
“The lives of millions of girls are threatened to be pushed into the basket of deprivation, including reduced access to education, nutrition, lack of protection and lack of access to basic social services,” the report stated.
Save the Children International CEO, Inger Ashing, said: “Child marriage is one of the worst and deadliest forms of sexual and gender-based violence against girls. Every year, millions are forced into wedlock with men who are often much older, robbing them of an opportunity to keep learning, be children, and in many cases, to survive.
“Childbirth is the number one killer of teenage girls because their young bodies aren’t ready to bear children. The health risks of children having children can be not, and must not, be ignored.
Governments must prioritise girls and ensure they’re protected from child marriage and premature childbirth-related deaths. This can only happen if girls have a say in the decisions that affect them.”
The organisation has, therefore, called on government to raise girls’ voices by supporting their right to safe and meaningful participation in all public decision and address immediate and ongoing risks of gender-based violence, including child marriage, by putting girls’ rights and gender equality at the centre of COVID-19 and humanitarian responses, development policy, and wider efforts to build forward better.
It also stressed the need for the government to Guarantee the rights of all girls, including those impacted by different forms of inequality and discrimination (including on the basis of gender, race, disability, economic background, etc.), by developing inclusive policies and programmes.