Greetings distinguished ladies and gentlemen, families and friends of the Nigerian community in Cork City here, I am honoured to be presenting this timely speech titled The Girl Child in Nigeria – Hopes, Fears and Aspirations.
In my walk in life I have come to realise that I cannot take fore-granted the opportunities that God has enabled me to have through parents who made sure that I had a good education and made sure that I was empowered to face the future that I now find myself in.
Having said this, in Nigeria and in the world at large not many ‘GIRLS’ have had this same opportunities for the simple reason that culture and most times poverty did not allow them to pursue Education and self-actualisation.
Recently the voices of well-meaning Nigerian women rang out when the Senate could not come to a consensus about deleting Section 4 29 (4) B, which says “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age” this was overturned by Senator Yerima based on religious grounds on the 16th of July.
I will read a precise summation from an online write up by Tinenenji Banda – A Zambian lawyer and a JSD student at Cornell Law School based in the USA.
“While the clause in question deals with the renunciation of citizenship and not the question of child marriage, the clause is an implicit endorsement of child marriage and undermines the legal protection accorded to children under the Child Rights Act of Nigeria which prohibits child marriages and provides that any marriage involving an individual under the age of 18 is null and void.”
Based on this summation it is apparent that the Nigerian constitution has taken away the right of a girl to be educated or decide for that matter to whom she should be married to, as she has not been given the opportunity to come of age, but is called a ‘Woman’ just because she is married. (God created Adam and a Woman not Adam and a Girl bride)
On the 13th of July women of Love International, an association of which I am the President had a seminar themed ‘Educate a Girl and Secure the Future’. This was based on the trend, not only in Africa but some other parts of the world, where girls were either married off too early or treated as sex slaves by people who see girls as objects instead of human beings. Little did we know that on the 16th of July the Senate allowed a clause that should be removed for the safety of the average Nigerian girl child.
More than once I was told by people to be quiet because the Northern women in Nigeria are not complaining as the issue of ‘Girl child Marriage’ is rampant in that region. The level of poverty and lack of education of these women will be the main reason they do not see anything wrong with child marriage or child abuse as they train their girls from birth to be ready for marriage. A girl who grows up in this type of environment will also allow her daughter to be treated in the same manner because that is all she knows.
At 53, Nigeria should be the champion of Girl Child Education not the Champion of Girl child marriage. Whether Nigeria knows it or not, we set trends in Africa and for that reason we should always be careful of the type of trends we set. It became a world-wide issue and this strengthened other African Nations who are involved in the Barbaric act of treating girls as sex slave, because they are indeed sex slaves under the guise or legalisation of marriage.
Our fear is that we are ridding Nigeria of future women leaders by giving them to twisted men like Yerima who would have married 3 child brides to date and that is if he has not molested others that we do not know about and paid off their parents to be quiet.
On Aljazera he quoted the Quran to buttress his point and he said one of his child brides is now in the university, but does she have a mind of her own, will she be able to boldly do what she believes to be right by her and her children? As educated as she is, will she be able to say NO if Yerima decides to marry of their 10year old in the future (if they were to have a daughter?) as he said on Aljazeera that he will do this.
Health issues related to child marriages. Recently in Yemen an 8 year old bled to death when her 40somthing year old husband had sex with her for the very 1st time. In Nigeria we have countless of cases that are not reported, however, there are reportedly at least 200,000 cases of Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) across Nigeria, which is an embarrassment to the girls involved and their parents as the tendency is for the men to dump the poor girls if this happens, just in case you are wondering about VVF, simply put it is the passing of urine and faeces without control. While Yerima was able to establish on his Aljazeera interview, that this can happen to any woman, the truth is that majority of the cases that were noted are related to girl children.
We hope that since the government are not able to pass a vote on the constitution they will be able to provide free medical help for these poor girls.
Fears of domestic violence, where the poor girl will not be able to defend herself and end up dead.
Fears of sexually transmitted diseases that is due to no fault of theirs.
Fear of social and psychological isolation, the men keep them in bondage because they don’t want them to realise that the situation they are in is wrong for them.
Fears of lack of education and Knowledge. They are not educated as they end up having children too early and are not able to go to school.
I can go on and on about the fears, however I am thankful that I am standing here as a testament to the fact that the world realises that the Girl Child needs to have a voice.
Hopes and Aspirations
I am grateful that the United Nations are daily coming up with help in the most needed areas as I know that in Katsina they have matched the state Government in Aid for the education of Girl Children, it must be noted that Katsina is the only state in Nigeria, that has fashioned out a ministry for girl child education and has focused on making sure that funds have been provided, we hope that other states will emulate Katsina state in this regards.
I am grateful that world-wide Women, like my humble self, who are opportune are crying out for the right change and are working towards this in ways that they can.
I am grateful that there are men who are appalled by the idea of child marriages and are pro-active as regards Girl Child Education, a case in point is the Governor of Katsina State His Excellency, Ibrahim Shehu Shema.
We hope that in Nigeria we can copy models that are in place to help take over children from the streets and bedrooms into class rooms, a model example would be the Girl Child Network Worldwide, Championed by an African woman name Betty Makoni. We are hoping that the First Lady of Nigeria, Her Excellency, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan, with her Laudable Women4Change organisation will empower other women in the different states in Nigeria to run assisted Girl child education and incentives. As the mother of the Nation this should be her chief aim as I know for a fact that she is very much interested in empowering women.
I thank the President and members of the Nigerian Community in Cork for the opportunity to share my views on The Girl Child in Nigeria – Hopes, Fears and Aspirations
Our theme with Women of love International remains – EDUCATE A GIRL SECURE THE FUTURE.
Thank you once again for this opportunity, God bless you all.