Nigeria - Speaking Out Against Child Marriage

Save the Children at the CEFM workshop with the Children’s Parliament of the Federal Capital Territory.

Artwork and personal essays on child marriage and girls’ rights by representatives of the Federal Capital Territory’s Children’s Parliament.

Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, addresses guests at the official opening of the Girls Voices: Speaking Out Against Child Marriage exhibit.

Participation and interest was high at the Official Opening of the Girls Voices: Speaking Out Against Child Marriage exhibit.

Child marriage in Nigeria

Many people may take for granted that marriage should be a choice, but every year 15 million girls are forced to marry.

In Africa, 2 in 5 girls get married before the age of 18, and Nigeria has more child brides than any other country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Child marriage is a major concern in Nigeria, where two in five girls become child brides, more than in any other country in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The Government of Canada is committed to ending child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) because it is a violation of human rights and also hinders development.  In Nigeria, the health, educational and economic impacts of CEFM are severe, and the barriers to change are strong, but there is also an emerging consensus among decision makers, and traditional and community leaders, that child marriage needs to end. 

Behind the numbers – one girl’s voice

 Until recently, Khadija was a child bride.  Born and raised in Zamfara State, Khadija has 15 brothers and sisters and started selling goods on the street at the age of four. At the age of 12, she had to quit school to help her family full-time and was forced to marry a 19-year-old man.  After a couple of years with very little food and physical beatings, Khadija found the strength to find her way back to her parents.

Khadija is 15 years old and now divorced. However, due to lack of meaningful skills, she is at risk of getting remarried, once again as a child. Fortunately, an organization called Centre for Community Excellence funded by Save the Children has set up safe spaces for girls in Khadija’s community and is offering literacy and vocational skills for at-risk girls and for survivors of child marriage.

Speaking out against child marriage         

The High Commission hosted the Girls’ Voices – Speaking Out Against Child Marriage exhibit  at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre in Abuja, in partnership with Girls Not Brides .  The exhibit shares untold stories of girls like Khadija who are forced into marriage or at risk of becoming a child bride. "Families and community members and leaders are advocating for change around the world and Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Development added her voice at the official opening of the exhibit where she outlined the steps her government is taking towards ending child marriage. This includes the imminent launch of a national campaign that would align with the Sustainable Development Goal to end child marriage by 2030.‎".

In addition, during a weeklong exhibit, the High Commission of Canada to Nigeria teamed up with Save the Children to host a visit from the Children’s Parliament of the Federal Capital Territory.  This is where Khadija shared her personal story with students who had many questions. The students participated in a workshop on child marriage led by Ms Aisha Sulaiman from Save the Children.  Students presented drawings and personal essays about child marriage and girls’ rights that were displayed alongside the exhibit. 

Our partners

Canada is pleased to be working with partners such as Save the Children and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as well as local NGOs such as Girls Voices Initiative and Africa Health, Human & Social Development (Afri-Dev) to continue the fight against CEFM in Nigeria and to help girls like Khadija.