More states urged to incorporate child rights law and empower girls
The International Day of the Girl, scheduled for tomorrow (Monday), once again provided Nigeria with an opportunity to address issues that militate against the advancement of the girl. There is a need for governments at all levels to push for the empowerment of the girl child and the realization of her human rights which have long been hampered by various factors such as education, culture and tradition, child marriage , among others.
The United Nations Children’s Education Fund noted in a report that abuse in all its forms is a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction are receiving help.
He added that six in ten children experience some form of violence – one in four girls and 10 percent of boys have been sexually abused.
In addition, UNICEF noted that Nigeria has the highest number of child brides in Africa with over 23 million girls and women married as children, most of them from poor communities. and rural.
However, there are laws criminalizing offenses against girls. Among those international laws that have been domesticated are the “Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015”; which provides a legislative and legal framework for the prevention of all forms of violence against people, especially women and girls and the “Child Rights Act (2003)”, which “guarantees the rights of all children in Nigeria. ”
However, not all states in Nigeria have passed and / or sanctioned the laws, as only 16 states have passed and sanctioned the VAPP law. According to data from the Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative, 11 states had not yet adopted the Children’s Rights Act. The states included Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Yobe. The data further indicated that Kaduna state was the only state to pass and approve the law, while Imo and Anambra states were the first states to pass the law in 2004.
Despite these laws, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world according to UNICEF, which also noted that one in five out-of-school children in the world are in Nigeria.
The agency added that the country had 45 percent of out-of-school children in West Africa, while “30 percent of girls aged 9 to 12 have never been to school.”
He further indicated that around 10.5 million children aged 5-14 were out of school, while 61% of those aged 6-11 regularly attended primary school.
Continued attacks on schools by bandits and kidnappings of schoolchildren have made matters worse, with only 47.7% of girls now attending school in the northeastern states, while 47.3% of girls are attending. school in the northwest.
However, UNICEF and women’s rights activists have called on states that have not yet joined ARC to do so and urged to commit to fulfilling the obligations set out in the law. In addition, on the occasion of this year’s International Day of the Girl, they called for awareness of the salient issues surrounding the girl.
Nigeria’s national representative, UNICEF, Mr. Peter Hawkins, said although 25 states have domesticated child rights law and 11 states have yet to do so, demanding a commitment to fulfilling the obligations of the law to ensure its application was a top priority.
Hawkings said: “We would much prefer all states to have domesticated it now, but what we don’t want is for a state to take ownership of the 2003 Children’s Rights Act and no. not have the mechanisms in place or the commitment to fulfill the obligations in this is because the rights of the child are a matter of obligations; the obligations of local governments, structures to ensure that they protect the rights of the child at every stage. It is also about trying to create an environment in which children can voice some of their concerns and where we can provide solutions to the problems.
He added that the challenges faced by girls included accessing basic education, adding “in terms of out-of-school children we have been able to manage it, but it is slightly higher among girls. than in boys. The key question here is to complete their education. Nigeria has one of the largest numbers of girls on the verge of completing their education, which means that the alternative for young girls is to marry, child labor, social domestic work, reinforcing inequalities between girls and boys in terms of leaving school.
“If you look at the attack on girls’ education, the attack in Zamfara on February 26 earlier this year, it was the only secondary school for girls in the two local government areas in that region. Therefore, the girls have to travel far and therefore they are embarked in these schools, which makes them more vulnerable. The attack on this school was due to their vulnerability.
According to him, this year’s celebration of International Day of the Girl is focused on the girl’s knowledge of her digital realities.
Hawkings said, “International Day of the Girl is a fantastic opportunity to highlight not only the positive element that girls can bring to our society, communities and families, but also some of the constraints that girls face in this process. moment. It’s a unique day. It promotes girls’ rights, highlights various issues such as inequalities between girls and boys, socio-cultural norms that allow discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world. It is a very important day not only to celebrate but also to address the salient issues facing the little girl.
“We are celebrating International Day of the Girl this year around the digital generation. Today’s children are the digital generation, not only can they access the digital world and data, but they are more adept at using digital platforms. However, there are inequalities between girls and boys in terms of access to digital devices.
For her part, Project Officer, Impact of COVID on Girls’ Education, Advancement of Women’s Rights and Alternative Protection, Joséphine Giwa, said the delay in implementing the law on children’s rights in 11 states was due to cultural and religious beliefs contrary to the provisions of the law.
She added that the religious and cultural leaders of these states were the custodians of the practices, noting that they were also key players in the movement for change and passage of the law.
Giwa said: “The law on the rights of the child has not been adopted in 11 states, mainly in the northern region, where the majority practice Islam. This is not a surprise as several questions talk about cultural and religious differences with the details of the act. The Supreme Sharia Council, as well as many northern legislations, called the act “anti-culture and anti-religion”.
She also said that one of the contentious issues of linking adulthood to puberty instead of the legally defined age of 18, meaning maturity, is causing many girls to marry early.
She said: “This makes girls aged 10 and over vulnerable to early marriage and pregnancy which further affects their education, health and overall development.”
On this year’s International Day of the Girl, Giwa advised the government to undertake the Herculean task of “aligning religious and cultural beliefs with federal laws” as well as ensuring “law compliance. States with the Law on the Rights of the Child and the Law on African Children. Charter.”
She added: “People are their own most powerful drivers of change. Girls, parents, guardians, boys, community and educational leaders must understand the rights of every girl in society and continue to make their voices heard in the search for development. When making decisions and policies that affect every Nigerian child, especially girls, the best interests and protection of the child must remain the first and only priority.
In addition, the National Vice President and National President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Nigeria, Rhoda Tyoden, said that for a nation to grow, the development of the girl child is vital.
She noted that the girl was human and that her rights were also human, but that she had been discriminated against despite the provisions of the law.
Tyoden also identified cultural and religious beliefs, including upbringing, as factors that had prevented some states, mostly in the North, from passing the law, noting that their definition of a girl’s maturity was at odds with that of the CRA.
She said: “The CRA is a comprehensive law that protects the child, including the girl. However, one of the fundamental reasons why this law has not yet been passed in some of the predominantly northern states is religion and culture. One of the main provisions of the law that states have opposed is a girl’s age limit before getting married. The Children’s Rights Act defines a child as any person under the age of 18. In some states, they believe that a girl should be married when she is an adult. But what is the criterion to determine if a girl is mature or not? Most of them will tell you when she starts having her period, but some children start having their period when they are nine and 10 years old.
She urged states that had not yet domesticated the CRA to do so to fulfill their obligations to children in their states.
For her part, Women Radio 91.7 Executive Director Toun Okewale Sonaiya said the implementation of the CRA was important for children’s safety.
She said, “For a better Nigeria, men should be careful to protect every girl they come in contact with, in mosque, church, school, home, workplace and at the workplace. social gatherings. Domesticating child rights law in each state is a good place to start, while implementation is key to protecting children. Indeed, every Nigerian child should have access to quality basic education.
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