31 JANUARY 2019
Girls in Nigeria are speaking out against child marriage and demanding the government increases marriage age by law.
In December 2018, Nigerian media reported that a man in his 70s had married a 15 year old girl in Niger State. Photos of the couple, posted on social media, sparked outrage across the country and inspired a group of three teenage girls to start fighting back.
Susan, Kudirat and Temitayo set up a non-profit organisation called It’s Never Your Fault and chose the issue of child marriage as their first campaign: #RaiseTheAge.
Online petition to end child marriage
Through an online petition, #raisetheage is calling for the Nigerian government to increase the age of marriage in all states to eighteen years old and for this law to be fully enforced.
The petition has already amassed more than 115,000 signatures and continues to gain momentum.
Speaking in support of the campaign and petition, Hussaini Abdu, Plan International’s Country Director in Nigeria, said “Child marriage has a devastating impact on children’s lives, particularly on the lives of girls. It not only robs them of their rights, but also of their childhoods.”
“In Nigeria, 43% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday and 17% are married before they turn 15. A girl who is married before the age of 18 is more likely to drop out of school, to become a child mother, to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and to be trapped in a lifetime of poverty. She is also more likely to be psychologically and economically dependent on her husband and in-laws, and therefore unlikely to realise her true potential.”
“When there is a large age gap between a bride and groom, as in the case that inspired the #raisetheage petition, it is highly likely that there is a huge power imbalance in the marriage. Many girls in Nigeria are already treated as inferior to boys and men, but when they are trapped in a marriage they never wanted, it is even more difficult for them to get their voices heard.”
“Their hopes and dreams are limited as soon as they start their new lives, they are often cut off from family and friends, unable to complete their education and fulfil their potential and are highly likely to face domestic and sexual violence.”
“The girls behind #raisetheage are a fantastic example of what girls can achieve if harmful practices that hold them back, such as child marriage, are no longer followed. They know that we need change, and they’re fed up with waiting for someone else to make it happen. It’s an exciting time for girls in Nigeria. They’ve had enough, enough of being ignored, enough of being overlooked and enough of being underestimated. So they’re taking matters into their own hands.”
Listen to girls
“The government of Nigeria must listen to them. It must do more to combat child marriage and amend its contradictory laws. And it must do more to protect and support girls so that they can live their lives freely, as equals to boys and men.”