By Justina Auta
A Global Girlhood Report, published by International NGO, Save the Children, says an estimated 44 per cent of girls in Nigeria get married before their 18th birthday. The report reveals that the percentage of girls that marry early in Nigeria was one of the highest globally.
Copies of the report were made available to Journalists in Abuja on Monday by Save the Children Nigeria (SCI), as part of activities to commemorate the 2021 International Day of the Girl Child.
The report says the rate of early child marriage was not likely to reduce as Nigerian girls were living in one of the most difficult times, leading to the death of almost 60 girls a day.
It said that as a result of armed conflicts, humanitarian crises, kidnappings, natural disasters, displacements, COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, the lives of millions of girls were threatened and as they were being pushed into the basket of deprivation.
“These include reduced access to education, nutrition, lack of protection and lack of access to basic social services, the State of Nigerian Girls Report showed.
“More than an estimated 22,000 girls a year are dying from pregnancy and childbirth resulting from child marriage, new analysis from Save the Children released on International Day of the Girl revealed.
“With the highest rate of child marriage in the world, West and Central Africa account for nearly half (9,600) of all estimated child marriage-related deaths globally or 26 deaths a day.
“The regional teenage maternal mortality rate is four times higher than anywhere else in the world,’’ the report said.
The report said that although nearly 80 million child marriages globally had been prevented in the last 25 years, progress had stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic which 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,’’ it said
According to Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, child marriage is one of the worst and deadliest forms of sexual and gender-based violence against girls.
Ashing sad that every year, millions were 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 teenaged girls because their young bodies aren’t ready to bear children.
“The health risks of children having children cannot 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, she said”
She said this should be done by putting girls’ rights and gender equality at the centre of COVID-19 and other humanitarian responses and development policies.