Gender & SGBVNews

44% Nigerian Girls Are Married Before 18th Birthday- Save the Children

Celebrating the International day of the Girl Child, Save the Children Global girlhood revealed that 44% of girls are married before their 18th birthday.

Save the Children International has said that  more than an estimated number of 22,000 girls a year are dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications, resulting from child marriage.

The charity made the revelation in a global childhood analysis report released on Monday, Oct. 11 to mark this year’s Girl Child day.

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 new report said.

It noted that the regional teenage maternal mortality rate is four times higher than anywhere else in the world.

In Nigeria, the organization said, an estimated 44 per cent  of girls in the country are married before their 18th birthday, one of the highest rates of child marriage globally. 

Rates are not likely to decrease today as Nigerian girls are living in one of the most difficult times, it stressed.

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 State of Nigerian Girls Report showed

According to the global childhood analysis, South Asia sees 2,000 child marriage-related deaths every year (or six every day), followed by East Asia and the Pacific with 650 deaths (or two every day), and Latin American and the Caribbean, with 560 annual deaths (or nearly two a day).

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International warned that 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,” she stated. 

She added that 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 cannot, and must not, be ignored, she declared, adding that “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.”

Although, Save the Children revealed that nearly 80 million child marriages globally have been prevented in the last 25 years, progress has been made even before the COVID-19 pandemic—which has only worsened inequalities that drive child marriage. 

With school closures, the report stated, health services under strain or closed, and families pushed into poverty, women and girls faced 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 said.

In a national report, the charity stated that in Nigeria, gender inequality continues to fuel child marriage. 

According to a survey carried out by the organisation, the belief that children born to young mothers are healthier and smarter is widespread among many communities. There’s also a common perception that younger girls “refresh” older men with their “younger blood”.

The report stated that even in countries where child marriage is illegal, exceptions are common and the practice is still widespread, including in Burkina Faso—which hubs one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.

The organisation cited a case of Viviane*, now 23, who was promised at birth to her husband and forced to marry him when she was only 12.

“My husband was 54 and already had four wives. I wanted to keep studying, I tried escaping but I was caught, so I tried again. I walked for 40km, managed to get a bus and ended up in a centre that supports child brides. I’m now studying mathematics and training to become a nurse, and mentoring other young girls about the importance of getting an education.”

The organisation is calling on governments to raise girls’ voices by supporting their right to safe participation in decision making.

It also called for addressing risks of gender-based violence, including child marriage, by putting girls’ rights and gender equality at the centre of COVID-19 and humanitarian responses, and policy.

Save the Children says the government should guarantee the rights of all girls, including the safe and unrestricted participation of female humanitarian staff in all humanitarian response efforts. 

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