Table of Contents
- Raising Awareness About the Child Marriage
- Root Cause of Child Marriage in Nigeria
It is good we are now aware of the great damage of child marriage, but of what use is our awareness if the cankerworm of child marriage is left to continue devouring our society? Despite the danger of child marriage, Nigeria citizens, most especially those in Northern part (Hausa ethnic group) belief that child marriage is the godly thing to do because their mentality is rooted in their strong religious belief. The big question we should be asking now is: how do we purge the people of this toxic mindset?
Raising Awareness About the Child Marriage
Late 2018, I went to Kano (Northern) to raise awareness about the danger of child marriage. I’m the founder and CEO of YGEM, a social enterprise focused on achieving gender equality. But to my surprise, a good number of them are already aware of the danger of child marriage. So I decided to interview close to 50 people one-on-one, to know their thought and why they still practice child marriage. I find out that the main reason is due to their religious beliefs and practices.
Root Cause of Child Marriage in Nigeria
I know many people have suggested various practical solution to end child marriage; empower the women and girls with skills and information, raise awareness, provide economic support to girls and their families, establish and implement laws and policies, build girl’s self esteem, and confidence. Etc. In as much as I agree, it won’t yield a desirable result in my country if we don’t address the root cause.
Nigerians value religious belief more than logical reasoning. So even when a girl child is empowered, she’s still forced by her parent to get married early or she might think that not getting married or not obeying her parent wish is against God will, so she tends to yield.
Honestly, what it will take to end child marriage in Nigeria is to focus on religious leaders. Nigeria is a highly religious country and over 70% Nigerians are influenced by their Imam or Pastor. The Hausa (Islamic community) practice child marriage because their exemplary leader (Prophet Mohammad) married a child bride. Of course, Prophet Mohammad also rode on camel during his Hijrah from Mecca to Medina, but how many faithful Muslims still ride on camel today? Therefore, we need to enlighten their current leaders (Imams) so that they can enlighten their followers. If religious leaders in Nigeria start to preach against child marriage, the rate of child marriage in Nigeria will drastically reduce.
After addressing the root cause (foundation), then we can start to build on it. We should implement strict rules and policies against child marriage and empower women and girls in the society. If the people’s religious mindset about child marriage is purged, it will be easier to enforce policies against child marriage and in record time, we will be able to end child marriage and improve the socioeconomic well being of the citizens.