Story by: Victoria Akambe

Marriage is an institution ordained by God. It is a union of two people (Adults), usually a man and a woman to become husband and wife. I thought to myself as I shook my head in disdain, but she is just a child not a woman!

How then will a child who cannot properly take care of herself, take care of a child, I said to myself watching this pretty girl breast feed her baby and looking into my eyes with her hand stretched out for money. I had just bought soya milk drink from her and was yet to pay as I was far gone in thought.

How much is it I said to her, ‘madam na 100 naira’ she said, I dipped my hand into my bag to bring out the money and just then I heard a shrill loud angry cry, that must be the baby of the girl I thought, but raising my head I noticed the mother had put her to sit on the bare floor, picking the baby up immediately I looked at her saying ‘she too small, you no suppose put her for ground wey u no say u no put cloth’ I said in pidgin.

Ashamed, she collected her money from me saying ‘aunty no vex.’ I told her it was fine and handed the baby to her. On my way, I thought to myself vex keh, hmm like Yorubas say in their local dialect kilomode mo! What does a child know?

Child marriage can be viewed as a formal or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of eighteen.

According to United Nation International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 43%of girls are married off before their eighteen birthday while, 17% are married before they turn 15 in Nigeria. The prevalence of child marriage varies widely from one region to another, with figures as high as 76% in the North West region and as low as 10% in the South West.The drivers of early child marriage are poverty, poor formal educational, strong social and religious traditions and illiteracy of parents.Many illiterate parents and couples today see their children as capital investments. Some believe the more children you have the richer you become in the future. They give birth to a lot of children that they cannot cater for. This causes poverty and also brings the idea of the parent stopping the schooling of especially the girl child, as they believe that the kitchen is their rightful place.

Here, the idea of marriage comes in, marrying the young girl away to a rich man who will take care of the family, especially the boys who they believe are goal oriented than the girls. The girl is married off so, that she can start taking responsibility of her brothers and younger ones. It must therefore be noted that every child is a child and should be treated equally.

Education is a strong indicator whether a girl will marry as a child. 82% of women with no education were married before 18, as opposed to 13% of women who had a secondary education.

The effects of early child marriage cannot be overlooked as one of the most appalling aspects is contacting Vesico-Vagina Fistula, which is a great disability faced by women after child birth. This occurs mainly when there is an opening between the bladder and vagina, and this causes the urine to leak, without control. One major cause of this is early child birth. Most women and young girls with these disabilities are mostly isolated by their husbands and chased from the community due to the urine stench. If this happens to a matured woman what more could be said of a minor who has little or no experience in child bearing.

One other effect is the fact that this disability leads to depression, psychological trauma and neglect of the baby. Another effect is the increase in mortality, when it comes to child birth.

Also, the child’s future is unfairly snatched away from her. Her dreams shattered and how a child, who is below the age of 18 take care of herself, talk more of her baby. This unholy mess has to be stopped, and can be curbed by the federal government enacting more laws against early child marriage, and defaulters must be greatly punished by the state.

Also, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO’S) should be created to help fight this sickness, by educating the masses against early child marriage and organizing campaigns and seminars to see it comes to an end. Girl child education should also be promoted and also gender equality.

Lastly, educate a woman and build a nation. All hands on deck to concretely ensure early child marriage become a thing of the past!