The Iyalode of Yorubaland, Alaba Lawson, on Tuesday called for a review of discriminatory laws on the minimum age of marriage in Nigeria, and an adoption of international commitments such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Mrs. Lawson spoke at Iwe-Iroyin Press Centre in Abeokuta as a guest lecturer on the theme, Accelerating our Collective Effort to End Child Marriage in Africa, to commemorate the 2015 African Child Day, organized by the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Ogun state chapter.
She, however, noted that ending child marriage would require collaboration among all sectors of the society, including governments, donors, civil society and international organizations. She also observed that poverty was a major factor contributing to incessant child marriages.
The Iyalode of Yorubaland called on the government to join forces with civil society organizations working with the affected girls, especially in some of the most marginalized communities, to gain an understanding of some of their successful interventions and how to scale these up across regions and countries
“It is also a matter of national priority and political will,” Mrs. Lawson said. “It requires effective legal framework that protects the rights of the children involved and it requires enforcement of those laws in compliance with the human rights standard.”
Mrs. Lawson said to effectively address the menace, it required the engagement and support of families and communities, “who, when they do stand up for their daughters and grand-daughters, will win change in otherwise longstanding but harmful social norms and traditions”.
“It requires the empowerment of themselves, empowerment so that girls are positioned to make decisions at the right time, empowered so that, exercising free and informed consent, girls can make the decisions that will safeguard their own futures, transform their own lives and enable them to live in the dignity to which they, as human beings are entitled,” she said.
She said to achieve long-term change government needs to ensure that large scale structural efforts aimed at other goals, such as health and poverty reduction as well as education are making the connection to preventing child marriage.
“Governments should develop and implement education strategies that address the needs of all girls, including adolescent girls, girls at risk of child marriage and married girls, and guarantee the necessary funds are allocated to ensure their implementation,” she said.
The chairperson of NAWOJ in Ogun, Remi Adebiyi, earlier in her welcome speech, retraced the establishment of the African Child Day to the assembly of Heads of States and government of the then Organisation of African Unity, OAU, which first instituted the day in memory of Soweto Uprising in South Africa. During apartheid, students on June 16, 1976 marched in protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their own language.
“Since then, it has become an annual event to celebrate children in Africa and proffer solutions to numerous challenges threatening their survival, which include child abuse, rape, child soldiering and most recently child marriage,” Mrs. Adebiyi told the gathering that included students from various schools across the state.
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