Early Marriage: UNICEF wants compulsory education of Nigerian girls
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has pushed for the compulsory education of the girl-child as a protection mechanism from forced early marriage.
UNICEF country representative to Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, spoke when he featured as a special guest on the News Agency of Nigeria interview programme, Forum, in Abuja.
Mr Hawkins, who said child marriage remained a big issue in the country, urged stakeholders to look for ways to prevent this to keep children in school.
“How do we ensure that girls are able to complete the full grade 12 up to the age of 18 so they can make decisions about their future? That is the most important issue that we need to take into consideration,” said the UN official. “The result of girls not going to school, especially junior secondary, is that they get married, or they’re married off, and I think that we must push for the girls to go to school.”
He added, “That, in effect, delays the marriage if they’re going to school. If they don’t go to school, it accelerates the marriage because it is a protection mechanism. So, we need to look at those too in UNICEF, as many of the traditional, religious leaders across the country say to me when we talk about child marriage. Child marriage is a big issue, and I’m sure you will come on to it in Nigeria.”
Mr Hawkins added that female children’s education was one of the main priority issues UNICEF was working on because of its profound effect on the health of adolescent girls. He noted that the Girls Education Programme (GEP) of UNICEF was an intervention designed to highlight girls’ education issues in the country.
“The programme will continue not as GEP but other interventions; what it did was to highlight the issue of girls and education, and it looked into many different elements,” stressed the UNICEF representative. “One is access, which is about distance and so on. How do girls get to school? How can they go to school? Are our families prioritising the girls to be able to go to school?”
The UNICEF official urged the government to consider the social aspect of the girls’ education, such as providing WASH facilities and travelling distance to and from schools, stating that they will encourage young girls to learn and continue learning.
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