Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care (BEFCAM), a non-governmental organisation has kicked against early girls-child marriage in Imude community, Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State.
The project funded by ‘Rise Up Together,’ to fight against girl-child marriage in the community was designed to offer the girl-child better options in life that would make them responsible and productive before getting married.
Speaking recently at a forum with partners and civil society organisations in Lagos, the programme manager, Bella Akhagba, said the prevalence of the early-child marriage in the area was alarming with grave implications awaiting them if not handled urgently.
Akhagba, said the project seeks the establishment of a bye-law against early girls-child marriage and to ensure the sustainability of their intervention process, adding that early marriage has precarious implications on the girl-child, as it denies them education, skills acquisition, and other empowerment schemes.
“Early girl-child marriage is a threat to national development; it leads to higher risks of maternal morbidity and mortality. Nigeria is currently ranked third globally with the highest number of child brides with 18 per cent of girls married before the age of 15 and 44 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18; it shows a true reflection of the situation in the community.
According to her, “research conducted by BEFCAM in the Imude community on about 30,000 residents indicated that four out of every ten girls marry before the age of 17.
“This project aims to equip programme staff, local CSO partners, and girl ambassadors with advocacy skills so that they can directly engage with the traditional rulers and other decision-makers and stakeholders in their community.
“To gain support for this new by-law, the foundation will develop and disseminate communication materials in both English and Yoruba, provide relevant SRHR education and training tools for the girls to become worthy ambassadors and establish ‘Too Young to Marry’ clubs at three local secondary schools.
Reacting to the ugly trends in the community, the matron of Imude Maternity and Health Care Centre, Rita Amaocha, said it is imperative that government provides empowerment schemes and safety nets for the beneficiaries of the project, adding that “we had a case that was worrisome and even led to the death of some girls in the community.”
The foundation believes that when the by-law is passed, it will benefit about 4,500 girls between 12 and 17 years in the Imude community and foster communal support for girl-education and skills-development and increase access to youth-friendly services.