The Campaign to end Child Marriage and the Strategy Document 2016 to 2020, pledging the Federal Government’s commitment to ending child marriage in Nigeria has been inaugurated by the Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
At the ceremony, organised by the Ministry of Women Affairs in Abuja, Osinbajo directed all government agencies to cue into the campaign in order to right the wrongs done to the womenfolk in the past.
He said there was both the need and urgency to deal with the issue of early marriage which was clear and compelling.
He stated that there is a correlation between child marriage and poverty.
“My presence here today underscores the fact that as far as the federal government is concerned, the campaign is not just for the Ministry of Women Affairs alone.
“It is a task for every department of government; our position is clear: `No Child Marriage’.
“Every nation is endowed by God with resources and talents and human capital it needs for that society to live in abundance, peace and prosperity.
“The talent he gives a nation include men and women; in some woman somewhere God has probably planted the cure for Sickle Cell Anaemia or Fibroid – ailments that mainly affect black people.
“If God has planned that women should only be capable of producing children, He would not have bordered to give them the intelligence to be scientists, law professors, medical experts and technology innovators.
“We as human beings must not bury the talents that God has already provided.’’
According to Osinbajo, the country has made significant progress in the struggle to change child marriage as the Child Rights Act is one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in Africa.
He said that being a legislation the states had competence they should pass similar legislations on their own and observed with satisfaction that no fewer than 24 states had already done so.
He noted that the country along with other African states in 2014 joined the campaign to stop child marriage in the continent.
He noted that the campaign had succeeded largely with the initiative of the day being part of the campaign.
Osinbajo, however, noted that laws and institutions could only be effective as the societal beliefs and customs allowed.
“Good laws or right rules especially on societal matters largely depend on societal consensus of buy-in otherwise the laws will not be enforced or only be haphazardly enforced.
“The battle is now for the minds of men and women who for one reason or the other still believe that child marriage is right.
“Unfortunately, their views cannot be ignored or waved aside.
“They must be understood and rebutted by the overwhelming case for the healthy, happy and prosperous future of girls and nation that suffers the loss of their talents and skills,’’ he said.
The Vice President said there must be persuasion through constant advocacy until the last vestiges of the practice of child marriage were removed.
He said government must take concrete steps to encourage girl-child education adding that policies which support pregnant and married girls to continue their education should be pursued.
Osinbajo also suggested the removal of unnecessary admission protocols to ensure true realisation of free and compulsory education.
He said it was gratifying to note that some states already established special schools and centres for continuing education for women and girls especially those whose educational pursuits were interrupted.
Accordingly he urged the states yet to provide such centres to do so without delay in order to reintegrate those who dropped out of school.
He said: “it is never too late to continue education.
“Regardless of the reasons that girls are not in school it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure that opportunities are available for them to have a re-start.
“All obstacles in the part of enrolment, retention, completion and transition for girls in education must be removed.
“This is the only way we can begin to right the wrongs that have been done to these forgotten girls and women.
“This is the surest way of unleashing their abundant potential and enable them to overcome challenges and make meaningful contributions to their immediate families and the development of the nation.’’
Osinbajo thanked the ministry for the initiative and expressed hope that it would yield more results.