BusinessDay

Gender experts condemn early marriage for parents’ economic benefits

Gender experts have advised the need to abolish marriage arrangements where parents think of economic, social and political benefits to them and early child marriage among communities in Nigeria to drive expansive development, especially in rural communities.

This was discussed at a forum organised by the women group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), themed “stop, don’t pawn the girl child” held on Thursday.

Discussions at the forum focused on abolishing the pawn marriage and money marriage practices which are prevalent in certain areas of Nigeria particularly in the Becheve community, Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River and some other parts of Benue as well.

Becheve girls are sold into ‘Money Marriage’ for cash as low as N10, 000, food items like tubers of yams; livestock like goats and pigs- all depending on the bargaining power of the ‘groom.’

Speaking at the Forum, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, First lady, Lagos state, said the practice of pawn marriage particularly for female children is barbaric and a form of slavery, adding that efforts must be put in place to abolish it.

Sanwo-Olu who was represented by Abosede Ogundimu said that the practice has threatened the lives and future of its victims robbing them of the various opportunities while making them more vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.

She said that putting an end to such practice will require collaborative efforts of individuals, organizations and the government, policies, awareness and enlightening programs.

“We must address its root causes which are predominantly poverty, furthermore In creating awareness, people need to be educated and enlightened about the evil of pawning the girl child for whatever reason,” she said.

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Linda Ayade, first lady, Cross River state in her remarks said money marriage is a strange primitive and barbaric concept yet to be destroyed among people in Cross river state however engagements will be ongoing with the government, traditional rulers, and non-governmental organizations to abolish the practice.

Ayade represented by Stella Bisom, an official of, Cross River state government, revealed that her NGO, Mediatrix Development Foundation has reached out to over 200 beneficiaries, 95 percent of whom are females and are victims of money marriage, equipping them with skills, funds and education to live better lives.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women said early and forced marriage which is recognized as a violation of human rights has become a prevalent practice seen as a means to reduce family costs and gain financial security

“ More than one-third of girls in Nigeria end up in child marriages, and with 22 million married before the age of 18, this has implications for their health and the economy as it breeds poverty and violence,” he said.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was represented by Lansana Wonneh deputy country representative of the UN Women in Nigeria said if firmly addressed and eliminated, the girl child can achieve far-reaching potentials with positive impacts on family and society generally.

Toki Mabogunje, President, LCCI said Nigeria has the world’s highest number of child brides ranking 11th among 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, furthermore, 49 percent of Nigerian women married under 18.

“Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, and limiting her career and vocational advancement opportunities,” she said

She called for collaborative efforts between organizations and individuals to scale up efforts and programs to fight the menace.

Victoria Obadina- Onafowokan chairperson, LCCI women group said the practice which thrives on ignorance and the high poverty rate has become a decay in the society and requires urgent attention.

“Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, but it’s also crucial for sustainable future. Evidence has shown that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development,” she said.

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