The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has called on government’s core policy and legislative interventions to empower the Girl-Child and address the factors militating against her realization of her rights to education; the highest possible health standard, as well as addressing the factors encouraging early marriage, irregular migration, and forced labor.
This was part of the communique issued at a side event at the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women 62 held on the 14th of March 2018 in New York.
The event was attended by over 40 participants from across the globe of notable repute and from different backgrounds including civil society, development partners, the international community, private sector, Nigerians in the diaspora and the media.
In his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani commended participants for taking out precious time to attend the event. He stressed the importance of the event as it not only keys into the theme of this year’s NGO CSW62 Forum: “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,” but is also very crucial, timely, relevant and provocative. In his introductory statement, Mr. Auwal recalled the unfortunate plight of young women and girls in the African context in terms of deprivation of fundamental human rights through abduction, child trafficking, irregular migration, early child marriage and much more dehumanizing and criminal behaviors meted out on the girl-child. He beamed the search-light on the plight of young school girls from Chibok in Nigeria, who were abducted by the Boko-Haram sect some 4 years back who are yet to be fully recovered and returned to their parents. He also decried the recent abduction of another set of school girls from Dapchi community in North East Nigeria, stating that it was dehumanizing and criminal to subject young girls to unnecessary hardships, exploitation and extreme violence.
Despite the advances of women in Nigerian society, Mr. Auwal lamented the inadequacy and ineffectiveness of the overall policy and legislative environment in Nigeria and indeed African countries that are state parties to all manner of United Nation’s protocols and conventions on the protection of fundamental human rights, girl-child rights and other rights, which he said have not resulted to elevating the status of women and girls to the level needed. He remarked that the necessary political will to implement legislation concerning the girl-child is lacking. He then called on the civil society groups to work together to push for serious reforms that will improve the lives of the girl-child. He observed that the UN CSW62 is a great platform for CSOs to advocate our various governments to engender reforms for the girl-child.
Ms. Chioma Kanu, Manager Health, Human Development and Social Inclusion, CISLAC, during her presentation reminded all that every girl has a fundamental human right to qualitative education, healthy life, and protection against harmful socio-cultural practices such as early marriage, sexual exploitation, and forced labor. She intimated that the primary responsibility to promote and protect the basic rights of the girl-child lies squarely on all the three arms and levels of government exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers. She observed that if properly guided and supported during her early years, the girl-child has the potential to change the world both as empowered girls today as well as tomorrow’s skilled workers, informed mothers, literate entrepreneurs, mentors, legislators, policy/decision formulators or implementers for the benefit of humanity and in the interest of justice.
Ms. Chioma informed all that unlike the Universal Basic Education Act, which has been adopted by the 36 states in Nigeria, only 24 states in Nigeria have adopted the Child’s Right Act while 12 states in Northern Nigeria are yet to agree on certain provisions in the Act, including the age of marriage. She further stated that Nigeria has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. The prevalence rate is highest in the North West (76%) followed by the North East (68%), North Central (35%) South-South (18%) South West (17%) and South East (10%). Once girls are married, very few (3.0%) are using contraception despite their needs to space child-bearing. Only 13.6% have their demand for contraception satisfied. Both single and married girls, she observed need access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning and maternal health services, and safe clean water, sanitation and hygiene services.
On the issue of irregular migration, she opined that migration is a fundamental part of human life. People move from one place to another for various reasons, including poverty, unemployment, famine, communal conflicts, natural disasters, generalized violence, armed conflicts and so on. She, however, pointed out that irregular migration outside the country is dangerous as the fundamental human rights of such migrants are not protected making them vulnerable to all forms of exploitation and abuses. She concluded by saying that Nigeria is replete with powerful laws and policies that are not costed and captured in the budget to enhance implementation to stop irregular migration and the abuses many girls and women face seeking a better life outside Nigeria.