The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has recommended the implementation of free education up to Senior Secondary School to save the situation of ignorance which does not allow Nigerian Girl-child to know that getting into early marriage may be inimical to her development in life. “Education is the life investment; it is the first empowerment we give a child; once a child is educated, she can decide what is right or bad for herself.”
For a second chance at education, especially for the Girl-child who may want to return to school after getting pregnant or married and having had a baby, the Honourable Minister also recommended that all offices and organizations should maintain a Day-care Centre for babies so that the mothers can concentrate on their preoccupation or studies without many distractions.
The Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Tallen was engaged in a conversation with the African Union Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Ending Child Marriage and other Harmful Practices Secretariat Team led by led by Hermaine Takam Gasting Kembo which came on a Country Monitoring visit to Nigeria.
Kembo, who is a Cameroonian and a Magistrate by profession asked very many probing questions after she and her team have been briefed extensively on the situation of the scourge as well as strategies employed by Nigeria’s policymakers to stem early child marriage and other harmful practices. Apart from the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, OFR, KSG leading the Team of Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in the conversation, the Honourable Ministers of Health and Education took part as represented by Tinu Taylor and Dr. John Ovuoraye (representatives of the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Emmanuel Osagie Ehanire) as well as Dr. Uche Udoji and Akor Adamu (representatives of the Honourable Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu).
The Kembo Team visited on Wednesday, 9th November 2022, and the conversations with the Nigeria Team were held at the Conference Room of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs.
The Special Rapporteur, Kembo earlier revealed the reasons for the visit which was to track and report on Nigeria’s progress in the implementation on the Ending Child Marriage campaign output, which includes the challenges, lessons, and best practices while providing key recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the Ending Child Marriage action plan.
Dame Pauline Tallen in response, to the initial briefing, commended the good works the African Union Commission Special Rapporteur on Ending Child Marriage and Other Harmful Practices Secretariat is doing with regard to the subject matter. Tallen stated that the issue of Child Marriage calls for concern due to the negative effects of child marriage across generations. She revealed that girls who marry in childhood often suffer shortfalls in schooling and nutrition. Tallen added that this gained more traction during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The women’s affairs minister revealed that Nigeria’s strategies for tackling the issue of early marriage were developed in collaboration with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Tallen further revealed that there was landmark progress in the area of Girl-child development after the launch of the campaigns to end child marriage by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
The advocacies the Minister outlined for her visitors include: The advocacies that have led to the domestication of the Child Rights Act (2003), a Federal Legislation, by 33 States; Re-commitments by the Federal Government of Nigeria to end violence against children, and, Orchestrated National Strategy to End Child Marriage as championed by Nigeria’s President;
Others are the National priority agenda for Vulnerable Children; The creation of a Girl-child Division in the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs to provide a stronger platform to address issues confronting the Girl-children; and the Promotion of a second-chance education programme, amongst others.
The Minister also stated that the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs has launched the National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) data-collation tool to ease the dearth of GBV data in the country. She added that she has led some advocacy visits to Traditional Rulers and Religious Leaders across the federation, all in a bid to end child marriage. These she added are already yielding positive results.
The special rapporteur, Honourable Kembo stated that the implication of the traditional rulers, empowerment of the adolescent girls, and issue of the institutional framework on child protection among others, “are key points to be dealt with and also to have more light shed on the development that is unfolding in the country.”
The Honourable Minister and the Special Rapporteur followed with a resolution to advocate for free education for children – both boys and girls up to senior secondary school level which will make the issue of child marriage be fully dealt with and eradicated in Nigeria.