A Non-Governmental Organisation, Beyond Mentors Community Care Initiatives, has called for urgent policies to discourage early marriage for underage girls in Nigeria.
The Executive Director of the NGO, Khadijat-Abdullahi Iya, made the call in Abuja on Tuesday at a programme hosted in recognition of the annual April 12 International Day for Street Children: a special day acknowledging the strength and resilience of millions of street children around the world.
The event was jointly organised by the Young Ambassador Against Drug Abuse Initiative, an NGO, and Street Children Parliament.
Iya said that there was a need for government and stakeholders to push more to discourage the unhealthy age-long tradition of early child marriage.
”Lack of political will and effective policies on the part of government and stakeholders to discourage early child marriage is encouraging this act.
Government and policymakers need to look at child marriages urgently and totally discourage it.
”We need all stakeholders to be present there to see how we can eradicate child marriage completely in Nigeria,” she stressed.
Iya observed that many girls were fond of giving birth to children they possibly lacked prerequisite parental qualities needed to train these children, adding that those were the ones ultimately capable of ”constituting nuisance in the society”.
She, therefore, drew the urgent attention of the government and policymakers to the troubling menace of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, saying that most of its consequent atrocities unfolded on the streets where vulnerable children were abandoned and subjected to such societal malady.
Iya hinged on the Child’s Right Act (2003), as the law that guarantees the rights of all children in Nigeria.
Notably, only 24 out of 36 states of the federation have adopted the CRA as a state law, with 12 states still lagging behind.
”The Child’s Right Act (2003) must be strengthened to protect these vulnerable girls,” she said.
Iya commended the organisers of the programme, along with stakeholders who are advocates of girl-child education.
Also speaking, Ms Joylife Alegbemi beckoned on the federal and state governments to further strengthen policies that would get children off the streets.
Alegbemi, who is a Swedish Ambassador, said that it was disheartening to see girls on the streets.
“Currently I am working on a project called the Eye Subscribe Project. It is aimed at promoting the rights and value, education and wellbeing of the girl-child in the society.
“It is very disheartening to see girls on the street because they are susceptible to various dangers like rape and many others that affect the girls in the society.
Also contributing, the Chief Executive Officer of YAADAI, Saifullahi Khalil, stated that the vision and mission of the NGO was to ensure that every child had the right to life, survival and development.
Khalil who is also the Speaker of Street Children Parliament, added that YAADAI was also out to ensure that street children were carried along in decision making processes.
He called on the government to assist the street children by engaging them in skills acquisition programme and sporting activities.
In her remarks, the National Programme Officer of the United Nations Women, Patience Ekeoba, stressed that street children were at risk of many dangers.
”The UNICEF says Nigeria has hundreds of these children on the streets. This is a failure on the part of those who are saddled with the responsibility of taking care of them.’
”We have the Child’s Rights Act which provide a robust framework on how we should protect our children but unfortunately only 24 states have passed (the Act).
”I call on the government to put more money and investment into the care and support of these children,” she urged.