Paul Obiajunwo, Port Harcourt
Over 10.5 million children are presently out of school in Nigeria, and 60 per cent of them are girls, says a Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS).
The survey also indicated that the number of girls who marry before the age of 15 in the country has risen to 25 per cent from the previous 13 per cent in 2007.
This disclosure was made at an event to mark this year’s “Day of the African Child”; an annual event organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to draw attention to the plight of African children.
Speaking on the theme: “25 Years After the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating Our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage” at Abonnema, Akuku- Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, the General Manager of Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, Medline Tador, urged parents to wake up to their responsibilities by providing the basic needs of the girl child.
Tador, who lamented that Africa has the second highest rate of child marriage in the world after South Asia, reiterated that it was time all stakeholders came together to fight the menace.
Represented by the Director of Production, Constance Amaehule, the General Manager reminded community leaders, traditional and religious organizations, parents and the school of their roles in the fight against early marriage.
She advocated the use of jingles and drama in radio and television houses to highlight its negative effects, and reaffirmed the commitment of Radio Rivers in assisting UNICEF in its health advocacy programmes.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), Chibunma Kakada has identified poor access to good and safe drinking water and poor toilet facilities as some of the challenges facing the girl child.
She listed denial of the child’s rights to good health, education and dignity as consequences of early marriage, pointing out that it is mostly the girl child who is affected.
She also advocated for regular hand washing after visiting the toilet and before eating, and cautioned against open defecation to check incidences of outbreak of communicable diseases.
In a remark, the Acting Education Supervisor in Akuku- Toru LGA, Sukubo Nath-Obu, enjoined all to come together to end the practice of early child marriage because it is not good development.
He said that the council would continue to join resources with unicef in the crusade against early child marriage, and thanked the organizers for holding this year’s celebration in the area.
The two day event featured art competition and drama presentation by the participating schools to drive home the negative effects of early child marriage.