Crimes in the forms of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency have been fingered as a catalyst to early marriage and prostitution among displaced girls in Northern Nigeria, especially in northwestern states, which include Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa and Zamfara.
Representative of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Katsina State, Hajiya Binta Kazim, stated this at a workshop on child marriage in the northwest, organised by the Kaduna State Ministry of Human Services and Social Development, with support from the Development Research and Project Centre (dRPC).
Earlier, the Kaduna State Deputy Governor, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, while chairing a two-day workshop for commissioners in the ministries of Women Affairs and Education from the aforementioned seven states held in Kaduna, had lamented the dangers girls who got married before the age of 18 or even less face just as she called for the concerted efforts of the stakeholders in the zone to rise against the security challenges.
Hajiya Binta, who is a renowned development worker across the country, said many of the girls see marriage and prostitution as escape routes away from poverty, insecurity and what they perceive as challenges to their survival since their parents are no more.
“Katsina State has the highest rate of banditry and the highest number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), many of whom are from Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states.
Many of the young girls are orphans and have no one to look after them, so they go into early marriage or prostitution because they do not know what to do and where to go. They then go into marriage believing the husband will take care of them,” she said.
She added that though the Katsina State government was doing much to reduce the trend, calling on other stakeholders to support the government to work the talk.
“Non-implementation of the many recommendations that have been made to the government has put women and girls at a disadvantage,” she decried.
The state’s Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, said child marriage, whether directly or indirectly, was a global issue and harmful practice to societies. She urged concerned parents and caregivers in the region to stop pushing children under the age of 18 into early marriage and, instead, support them to pursue their education.
“Child marriage is often the result of entrenched gender inequality, making girls disproportionately affected by the practice. Ending child marriage will boost efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by improving access to education, encouraging economic growth, enhancing nutrition and food security as well as improving maternal and child health,” she said.
She thanked dRPC for supporting Kaduna State since 2019 in the area of research, which has been of great help in tackling challenges like early marriage and out-of-school children.
Programme Coordinator, Global Innovative for Women and Children, Aminu Babangida, said the coming together of government functionaries, development partners, civil society, media as well as traditional and community leaders was aimed at getting to the root cause of the problem and finding a lasting solution to them.