More families now aware of ills of child marriage – Anne Lawal

Posted on 1 April 2012


On April 1, 2012

Mrs. Anne Lawal is the Senior Programme Officer of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, a non-governmental organization in the forefront of promoting the rights of women and girls. She spoke with Vista Woman recently in commemoration of the year 2012 International Women’s Day, highlighting progress made on issues affecting women and girls. Her words:

To bring to fore the struggles of women, Baobab joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day, observed every year on March 8. This was necessary because of the disadvantages women face due to the disproportionate distribution of resources and gender roles in society.

According to the United Nations, the majority of the world’s 1.5 billion who live on less than one dollar a day are women. Women also constitute victims/survivors of violence both in domestic and public spheres. Violence against women, including rape, incest, battering, etc. continue to reoccur!

There is therefore an urgent need to introduce and implement more effective interventions to both redress and combat such incidents. Some people tend to accuse rape victims as being the cause of their being raped, but the truth is that there is no excuse for rape. Whatever a woman chooses to wear is no reason why any man should exploit her sexually. That was why the Lagos state government understood when civil societies came together to advise them to put a stop to the arrest of women whom they described as ‘indecently dressed’.

The theme for the 2012 celebrations is ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures’. This is very apt given the recent increase in incidents of rape and incest as reported in many national newspapers as well as in annual reports, compiled by local and international organizations on Nigeria as well as on a number of other countries. We all need to work together to end inhumane acts of violence against women and young girls to ensure that our society is free from all sorts of such violence.

Anne Lawal

As part of our efforts to inspire young girls for positive change, Baobab has implemented various interventions which include educational empowerment for vulnerable young girls in the northern part of Nigeria, national talent competitions on essay writing and arts as well as mentoring programmes for young women interested in vying for leadership and political positions.

Our work with young girls in northern Nigeria has been particularly productive in the area of child marriage. I can’t really say that we have been able to put an end to child marriage in the north, but the fact is that more families are now aware of the dangers and ills of child marriage through our sensitization programmes. Now, the latest trend is that some families, due to awareness, now make the husband marrying their child to sign an agreement that he would send the girl to school. So, things are changing gradually.

We are aware that there are certain aspects of the Bible and Quran that have been misconstrued to oppress women. Therefore, we have programmes where we try to dialogue with religious and traditional rulers.

On behalf of Baobab, I would like to use this occasion to call on the Nigerian government to speed up actions on its obligation under all national, regional and international instruments signed and ratified such as Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the rights of women in Africa, Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and others.

BAOBAB recognizes that the enforcement of these laws as well as the stipulations of non-discrimination in the Nigerian constitution will further protect our women and young girls, and expedite the realization of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

One of the reasons why major acts of violence persist is because these laws are yet to be implemented! Government really has to speed up actions because in a society like Nigeria where we have women constituting over 50% of the total population, development will continue to be hampered if they (women) are not given their rightful place!’