Nigeria: “If a girl is 15 years old and she is not married, people will start complaining”

 

Child marriage is common in Nigeria. 43% of girls in the country are married before their 18th birthday. These figures are even higher in the northeast and northwest, where nearly 3 out of 4 girls are married before 18.

Enabling girls to tell their own story is an important part of addressing child marriage. In this short film, we hear the stories of girls from northern Nigeria. Girls who are worried about marriage, are already married, or have left an abusive husband.

The video is produced by the New Media Advocacy Project, in partnership with Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative and Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative.

Marriage can feel inevitable to many girls

Many girls in the video feel that marriage is something they have little control over. “We live in a village,” explains one of them, “when the time comes, we will all be married off.” Another adds, “For us in this village, if a girl is 15 years old and she is not married, people will start complaining.”

Child marriage subjects girls to violence

Child brides don’t usually have a say in their marriage. When they learn what has been decided on their behalf, they often have little choice but to accept. Beginning on such unequal grounds, girls can face violence and abuse from their often older husbands.

One girl explains: “All that happens is that the parent decides who the girl will marry and anything he does to her, they brought it upon her. It’s not compulsory for him to look after her, unless you are lucky. In my own case, I was not lucky.”

Early pregnancy endangers girls’ lives

Married girls are often pressured into early and repeated pregnancies. This has harmful consequences on both their health and that of their future babies.

One girl recalls: “When it came time for my delivery, I was in labour for two days before I was taken and brought to the hospital where the baby was taken out. But even when they brought it out, the baby was not alive. That is how I ended up with this challenge.”

As a result of prolonged labour, she ended up with obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition which causes constant incontinence, shame, social segregation and health problems.