Effect Of Early Marriage On The Socio-Economic And Educational Development Of A Girl-Child In Nigeria
This research work explored the issue of early marriage in Nigeria. It shed light specifically on reasons behind its perpetuation, its harmful consequences, shows how it constitutes a barrier to education and enjoyment of human rights by girls and how it further threatens the development of the country. The findings from respondents and extensive reading of materials related to early marriage suggest that early marriage is due to various factors including among others, the search for economic survival, protection of young girls, peer group and family pressure, controlling female behavior and sexuality, wars and civil conflicts, socio-cultural and religious values. It is a violation of girls’ human rights as it deprives her from freedom, opportunity for personal development, and other rights. It is also anchors the soci-economic and education developmental challenge for population pressure, health care costs and lost opportunities of human development. It is a barrier to girls’ education as young girls drop out of school to get married which impacts negatively on the community as a whole and on the well-being of future generation. This practice stands in direct conflict with the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); such as the promotion of basic education, fight against poverty, the prevention of HIV/AIDS and reduction of maternal mortality rate in sub Saharan Africa and Nigeria in particular. To deal with the problem, a number of strategies have been suggested mainly for providing economic opportunities to young girls, promoting education of girls and using mass media to increase the awareness of the whole community about the consequences of early marriage on girls themselves, their family and on the community as a whole.
1.1 Background of the Study
Pregnancy at whatever stage in life can be a life changing experience that cuts across boundaries of race, educational attainment and socioeconomic status (Kost et al., 2010). Motherhood places demands on one’s life which were hitherto non-existent prior to the birth of the woman. When a girl that should be in school becomes pregnant, her entire life could be completely altered as her hopes and aspirations could be shattered. Teenage parents are parents between the ages of 13 and 19 years (Kost et al., 2010). Maynard (1997), believe that Early pregnancy is a delinquent behavior resulting from stress, dislike, malice, boredom and unhappiness experienced by a teenage girl within her home environment. Other predisposing factors include alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, social and health problems among adolescents and sexual abuses resulting to unwanted sex and pregnancy (Gaby, 2012). Dilworth (2002) observed a relationship between risk behaviours (drinking, smoking and drugs) and likelihood of becoming pregnant among teenagers, while Singh and Daroch (2000) singled out poverty as both the causes and consequences of teen pregnancy and child bearing.
Early marriage before the age of 18 is a violation of a number of international human rights charters and conventions such as 1989 Convention The Rights of the Child (CRC), 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEFADW), the 1989 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Women. However, for many young girls in developing countries, marriage is perceived as a means of securing their future and protecting them. Girls are forced into marriage by their families while they are still children in the hope that marriage will benefit them both financially and socially. On the contrary, early marriage violates the rights of children with often more negative consequences on the girls than the boys. This compromises their overall development, leaving them socially isolated with little or no education, skills and opportunities for employment and self – realization. These conditions ultimately make married girls more vulnerable to poverty. Young married girls are indeed a unique group, coming under great pressure on a number of fronts. They are required to do a disproportionate amount of domestic chores, which includes new roles and responsibilities as wives and mothers. The young bride’s status in the family is frequently dependent on her demonstrating her fertility-often within the first year of her marriage at a time when she is not yet physiologically, psychologically and emotionally prepared. Additionally, girls are made to be responsible for the care and welfare of future generations while still children themselves. Young mothers with no decision making powers, restricted mobility and no economic resources are likely to transmit this vulnerability to their o springs. Therefore, early marriage directly compounds the ‘feminization of poverty’ and intergenerational poverty (Saxena, Shobha, 1999). Several studies confirm wide age gaps between younger married girls and their spouses. This age gap clearly creates unequal power relationship between the younger brides and her older and more experienced husband, resulting in husband having total control over sexual relations and decision-making. Since younger brides are socially conditioned not to question the authority of their husbands, they are often unable to use contraception or to plan their families. The combined effect of these factors may also make younger brides more likely to tolerate partner violence. While there is widespread agreement that early marriage, early pregnancy and motherhood adversely affects general development and education of girls and they are the links with poverty and wide consequences on families and communities have not been adequately explored. This is partly due to the ‘invisibility’ of younger married girl in most communities, and the fact that marriage confers adult status to girls and boys (Bruce, 2002). Yet, many societies, primarily in Africa and South Asia, continue to support the idea that girls should marry at or soon aer puberty. Their spouses are likely to be a few years older than they are, but may be more than twice their age. Parents and heads of families make marital choices for daughters and sons with little regard for the personal effects. Rather, they look upon marriage as a family-building strategy, an economic arrangement or a way to protect girls from unwelcome sexual advances.
1.2 Statement of the General Problem
Despite national laws and international agreements forbidding early marriage, this phenomenon is still widespread in many developing countries with a high prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, more particularly in Nigeria. This paper intends to analyze that issue by emphasizing on this region of Africa (Nigeria) using Okene as a paradigm. According to UNICEF Early marriage contributes to a series of negative consequences both for young girls and the society in which they live. It is a violation of human rights in general and of girl’s rights in particular. For both girls and boys, early marriage has profound physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impacts; cutting o educational and employment opportunities and chances of personal growth. In this research work more emphasis is given to girls as this is an issue that impacts upon them in far larger numbers and with more intensity and consequences. Besides, having a negative impact on girls themselves, the practice of early marriage also has negative consequences on their children, families, and society as a whole. UNICEF (2000) argues that it is not only girls that pay for early marriage but also the society as a whole. Population pressure, health care costs and lost opportunities of human development are just a few of the growing burdens that society shoulders because of teenage pregnancies. Early marriage also undermines international e orts to fight against poverty in developing countries. Bunch (2005), makes it clear that the widespread practice of child marriage makes it increasingly difficult for families to escape poverty in the developing world, thereby undermining critical international e orts to fight poverty, HIV/AIDS and other development challenges, and making billions of dollars in development assistance less effective. Among the problems of early marriage in Nigeria is Vesico-Virginal Fistulae (VVF) which remains a serious reproductive health problem for women of childbearing age in the developing world. It is one of the most appealing misfortunes that a woman can face as a result of early pregnancy and childbirth. High maternal mortality and morbidity is another problem posed by early marriage. The world health organization estimates that the risk of death following pregnancy is twice as great for women between 15 and 19 years than for those between the ages of 20 and 24. The maternal mortality rate can be up to five times higher for girls aged between 10 and 14 than for women of about twenty years of age .This study should then seek to find answer to the following questions on soci-economic and education developmental effects of early marriage in Nigeria.
1.3 Research Questions
- What are the reasons behind early marriage perpetuation in Okene local government area?
- Does early marriage have affects on the socio economic and educational performance of children in Okene local government area?
- Does early marriage hinder development in Okene local government area.
- Does early marriage leads to poor development in Okene local government area.
1.4 Objectives of the Study
Therefore, the specific objectives of this study are as follows:
- To identify the reasons behind early marriage perpetuation in Nigeria using Okene local government as a paradigm.
- To identify how it affect girls’ wellbeing and constitute a violation of their human rights in Okene local government area.
- To investigate the consequences and soci-economic and education developmental effects of early marriage in Okene local government area.
- To recommend ways of ameliorating the soci-economic and education developmental effects of early marriage in Okene local government area.
This paper will test the following hypothesizes:
- Economic survival (poverty), socio-cultural and religious norms, civil conflict, value for virginity and fear of extramarital sexual activities are the reasons behind early marriage perpetuation in Nigeria.
- Early marriage affects girls’ wellbeing and constitutes a violation on their human rights in Okene local government area.
- Early marriage hinders development in Okene local government area.
- Early marriage leads to poor development in Okene local government area.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The study would be of immense benefit to the development of the girl child education in Nigeria as it would reveal the effect of early marriages and pregnancies on the girl child academic achievement. The study would also be of importance to students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing a further study on the subject matter.
1.7 Scope and Limitation of the Study
The study is restricted to the effect of early marriage and pregnancy on academic performance of female students in Nigeria using the federal college of education Okene in Kogi state as a case study.
Limitation of the study
Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion
This study has raised some pertinent issues which our various systems of government and individuals must address adequately in order to cope or curtail the soci-economic and education developmental effects of early marriage on girls’ child and the society as whole. For instance, it has touched on the agonizing problems which limit development and wellbeing of our girls in Nigeria using Uzouwani a study area.
Thus, numerous severe consequences result from the practice of early marriage was also identified. Early marriage is intrinsically linked to low levels of education, high levels of violence and abuse, social isolation, severe health risks and harmful power dynamics and results in increased gender inequality and vulnerability to poverty for girls, young women, families and the society as a whole. This practice also threatens the international development effort to fight against poverty and related challenges in developing countries.
The discussion in this study so far has revealed some key facts about early marriage and its soci-economic and education developmental effects in the society especially in Nigeria. Thus, below are the stated recommendations from the researcher:
- Promoting education of girls: educating girls seems to be the ideal solution since, if sufficiently prolonged; it helps to delay age of marriage, and confers other benefits as well. However, sending children to school costs money and where money is scarce, it is unlikely to be spent on girls. In addition, due attention ought to be paid to the provisions of section 18(1) of the 1999 constitution, Article 28 of the CRC, and article 11 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, all of which guarantee every child a right to free and compulsory basic education.
- Government should establish skill acquisition centres in case where the girls cannot benefit from formal education; they must be trained in different skills, according to their choice and the state of the market.
- Enactment of laws regulating marriage in the country will be of tremendous help in the fight against early marriage because almost the majority of perpetrators are practicing it (early marriage) under the influence of ignorance. Making laws and sensitizing the public on the effects of earl marriage on girls’ child and the entire society will bring it (early marriage) to an end. Thus, governments should enact laws on early marriage based on the following:
- Long -term policies that select to change paternalistic institutions and that may end women’s economic dependency on men.
- Policies to correct occupational segregation, gender inequality and feminization of poverty e.t.c.
- Time to time sensitization is needed. NGOs, CBOs, governments e.t.c should campaign aggressively and raise awareness using mass media about early marriage. Sensitization on soci-economic and education developmental effects of early marriage from time to time will increase women’s status and power within the family and community. In other words, social attitudes must be changed on early marriage.
- Furthermore, government should try as much as possible to provide the basic social infrastructures/amenities for the masses to help them in the area of means of livelihood in order to reduce poverty which is the major cause of early marriage and to introduce a rural development program which will help in transformation of the communities.
- Finally, all hands should be on deck to make sure that early marriage could be reduced if not eradicated in the society because it is not only girls’ child that suffers the effects but the society at large.
This paper has shown that child marriage is an accepted cultural practice in many countries especially in developing countries with more prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. It is still widely sanctioned, even though it is a violation of the human rights of young girls due to various motives. Early marriage can violate the rights of girls and boys, both in this generation and the next but this is an issue that impacts upon girls in far larger numbers and with more intensity. More emphasis has been given to girls as the experience for boys is, less likely to be exploitative or physically harmful as it is for girls. The imposition of a marriage partner on children or adolescents who are in no way ready for married life, and whose marriage will deprive them of freedom, opportunity for personal development, and other rights including health and well-being, education, and participation in civic life, nullifies the meaning of the convention on the rights of the child’s core protections for those concerned.
To trickle this challenging phenomenon, a joint effort to formulate and implement policies and strategies is needed. Actions to fulfill or restore the rights of those already married should go hand in hand with preventive actions to insure that all of the interventions are available to married, as well as to unmarried girls.
Providing economic opportunities to young girls: poverty is one of the major factors underpinning early marriage. Efforts to improve the access of young married and non married girls to economic resources should focus on expanding employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. Micro-credit programs provide women and girls with the basic economic opportunities they often lack and a social support network that promotes changes in attitudes and behavior. It serves as a means of granting them higher status and more control over their lives – including their options in marriage (Kabeer 2005 and Umashankar 2006).
Some of Key International and Regional Rights Instruments Relating to Child Marriage:
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
- The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (1964)
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women (1979)
- The United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institution and Practices Similar to Slavery (1956):
- Plan of Action for the Elimination of Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children
- The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
- The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) e.t.c.
UNIFPA (2006) cites the three key international agreements that provide added standards for governments in realizing reproductive health and rights. Those are the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development; the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women; and the 2001 and 2006 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on HIV/AIDS. These landmark agreements promote human rights, gender equality and empowerment as critical to the overall development and wellbeing of women, girls and young women.
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