In Niger, early and enforced marriage is common, and often girls are taken out of school to marry and start a family. However, some communities are working hard to keep girls in education and put an end to early marriage.
In Dosso, the Sultan (the highest level of traditional leader) is just one of the many leaders around Niger who are trying to put an end to early marriage before the age of 16 and keep girls in education. He tells us of a story of Amina*, a 14-year-old girl he helped back into school.
Taken out of school, Amina’s father had promised her hand in marriage to a man in Benin. After marrying, she was sent to Benin with her ‘husband’ and not allowed to return home or to school. After hearing of this, the Sultan spoke to Amina’s father and took steps to have the marriage annulled, speaking to the Niger Embassy in Benin. The Sultan had Amina returned to Dosso, where she was able to return to school. Amina’s ‘husband’ and father were fined, and now she is enjoying her life as a young teenager back in school with her friends.
Saying 'no' to early marriage
The Sultan of Dosso has helped many girls in local villages have access to education, and have the confidence to say ‘no’ to early marriage. In the village of Nikkiberi, Dosso, we met a group of young girls aged between 12 -15 and all in school, who were determined to not get married until they were at least 18.
Each and every one of these girls had dreams to become teachers and doctors. When asked what they would do if their fathers promised them to a man, they all confidently explained that they would not allow it to happen, and that they would go to the authorities – the Sultan, the city council – as they knew that it was against the law and that they should be able to stay at school.
It is because of Plan’s support and commitment to villages such as Nikkiberi that young girls and their families have the knowledge and confidence to be able to access their rights to education and delay marriage until they are ready. It is through supporting communities and also traditional leaders such as the Sultan that early marriage will finally be stopped, benefiting the health and wellbeing of all of Niger’s young girls.
*Name has been changed due to child protection reasons
In the time it has taken to read this article 25 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds
Plan International is a children’s organisation working with communities in 50 developing countries to alleviate child poverty. Read more about Plan's work in Niger.