Non-Governmental Organisations And Child Marriage In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material Under International Law and Diplomacy

Non-Governmental Organisations And Child Marriage In Nigeria


This study examined non-governmental organizations and child marriage in Nigeria.

The study adopted qualitative research design and interviews. The research makes use of primary data which involved the interview of three victims of child marriages, currently being rehabilitated by various NGOs. Victims are from the north eastern and north central part of Nigeria. The research also make use of secondary data which include documents and records of past instances of child marriage, publications, and data archives of NGOs, written or oral information from witnesses.

The findings revealed that; A large portion of Nigeria population lives in extreme poverty, especially those living in rural areas;. A common factor within child marriage is the age difference between the girl and her husband, and as a result, the girl is more likely to lose influence; this sometimes results in domestic violence;. The Child Right Act 2003 is a legislated law in relation to child marriage which is an act that prohibits both the marriage of those considered to be children and the betrothal of children;. Lack of fund is a major barrier affecting the NGOs towards combating child marriage in Nigeria;. The national and international NGOs have been able to eliminate child marriage in Nigeria through the following; the provision of education to victims, providing vocational and skills acquisition programs.

The study concludes that, government should ensure that, the implementation of the Child Right Act 2003 is made to stand, and as well as that of Marriage Act 1990 which made a provision of marriage between boys and girls of 21years old. The study further recommends that; Government should create an enabling environment with job opportunities for the masses especially those in the rural areas in order to get them empowered and equipped;. The issue of child marriage should be given utmost attention and importance by the government and private individuals, policymakers, and influential public stakeholders;. The Child Right Act 2003 and the Marriage Act of 1990 should be supported by public stakeholders, government and other influential individuals;. Government should put in place necessary measures that make provision for financial assistance and support to the NGOs in combating the issue of child marriage in the country, especially in the Northern part of the country.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Child marriage is a human rights violation that prevents girls from obtaining an education, enjoying optimal health, bonding with others their own age, maturing, and ultimately choosing their own life partners. This inhumane practice is largely driven by poverty, cultural practices, religious and social pressures, illiteracy, religious customs, and laws that allow child marriage. There are dire consequences on the child’s health like; increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, death during child birth, obstetric fistulas, etc. Marriage is associated with choice; the choice to be married and stay married, or to not be married. Unfortunately, most girls do not have the opportunity to choose, as they are forced into early marriages without their approval.

According to UNICEF (2007), child marriage, also known as early marriage is defined as any formal or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years. A child of below 18 years is not capable of giving his or her valid consent to marriage. International bodies recognize 18 years as the legal age of marriage.

Child marriage otherwise referred to as early marriage, is an ancient tradition, and can therefore be defined as any marriage that occurs when the girl is not physically, mentally or psychologically ready to bear the pressures of marriage and child bearing.

According to a 2012 study conducted by UNICEF, countries like Niger, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Bangladesh and a host of other countries including Nigeria, have recorded high rates of this practice. This practice is extremely prevalent in developing nations, one of which is Nigeria.

Interestingly, the Nigerian nation recognizes age 18 as the legal age for voters registration, and national identification programs, but has no solid laws as regards child marriage.

As this is a form of forced marriage, it should be seen as an abuse of human rights. More often, it is a case of an underage girl being given away in marriage to a man. Female adolescents and teenagers are married off to adult men almost twice their age.

This practice is most prevalent in the Northern region of Nigeria, and particularly common amongst Nigeria’s poorest rural households, and the Hausa ethnic group.

Families engage in child marriage as a way of paying debts; giving away their underage child to pay a debt owed, securing ties with a wealthier or more powerful upper class family, or as a cultural or religious obligation that must be performed. Under certain traditional and Islamic laws, a woman becomes of age once she undergoes the process of marriage.

NGOs such as Save the Children International (SCI) has been advocating for the abolition of child marriage and other impediments bedeviling marriage and other adolescents in Katsina, Gombe and Zamfara states of Nigeria. The struggle to eradicate child marriage, starts from its societal, cultural and religious roots tied to the practice. Consequently, SCI wants the government to criminalize marriage before the age of 18.

At a World Population Day commemoration event in Abuja on 14th July, 2016, Professor Oladipo Ladipo, representing Nigerian NGOs (NNGOs), advocated that Nigeria bans underage marriage for girls. While presenting a goodwill message on behalf of the NGOs, stated that the NGO community wants to pledge unwavering support to the government of Nigeria, to develop responsive policies that will eliminate child marriage in Nigeria, like Gambia did recently.

The detrimental effects of child marriage are numerous, and will be considered in this study. Study also considers the provisions of Child Rights Act on child marriages, against the background of other jurisdictions.

Child marriage is usuallyforced, and robs affected children of their dignity, fundamental human rights, childhood, body autonomy, honor and respect. It plunges them unprepared into adulthood; not just adulthood, but into life as a married adult. Child marriage is considered a form of modern slavery. The typical images of shackles and whips that portray slavery, may not necessarily be present in child marriage. True, the vast majority of victims of child marriages are not sold off in public auctions, but they are really no better than their predecessors. In some cases, their lives are even more tragic.

In recent cases, Alhaji Ahmed Bakura, former governor of Zamfara state and Ese Oruru in Bayelsa state are clear examples that this menace is still ongoing.

Overtime, there has been an uprising of NGOs in Nigeria and on the international plane that are steadily combating the practice of child marriage. NGOs such as ‘Girls Not Brides’, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organizations from over 100 countries (of which Nigeria is a member), committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls fulfil their potential. Such NGOs probe governments, civil societies and all relevant ministries to take actions against child marriage.

Nigeria signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for the resolution of child marriage.

In conclusion the practice of child marriage in Nigeria is constantly being tackled by these NGOs, albeit the practice being an age long one.

Hence, this project work will be exposing the roots, dangers, effects and causes of this practice, with the NGOs combating them and the methods involved; in Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is seen as a basis for all international legal standards for human rights today. The UN General Assembly in 1959, adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which defines children’s rights to protection, education, health care, shelter and good nutrition. Child marriage is a blatant violation of these rights, as it endangers the child, deprives them of good health, freedom and education.

Child marriage in Nigeria is an issue that continues to draw debates among various schools of thought. However, the impacts of child marriage can have devastating effects on the child being married off and the society at large; the child is robbed of their educational and career prospects, as well as exposed to VVF and other STDs. The negative effects it has on society are; population pressure as a result of increased cost of health care, spread of HIV/AIDS, increased mortality and morbidity rates, as well as undermining efforts by NGOs, trying to curb this practice.

According to a 2017 study carried out by GIRLS NOT BRIDES, Child marriage is a prevailing menace in the Nigerian society. In 2017, 43% of girls were married off before the age of 18. 17% were married off before the age of 15. Nigeria is the 11th highest nation in the world for the percentage of child marriages. In 1999 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), it was reported that the median age of marriage in the South-West and South-East was 20.2 years, while that of the North-West and North-East was 14.6 and 15.0 respectively. Study also revealed that rural girls were more likely to marry earlier than girls living in urban environments.

The negative repercussions of this practice on the child include; Domestic violence, illiteracy, early pregnancy, health risk, stigmatization and abandonment, bleak failure to mention a few.

Therefore, this study seeks to critically study the practice of child marriage in Nigeria, and analyze the progress, or otherwise, of various NGOs, in the steps taken to eliminate this practice.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to explore the efforts of NGOs in response to the practice of child marriage in Nigeria’

The specific objectives are to;

  1. Highlight the factors resulting in child marriage in the Nigerian society.
  2. Investigate the influence of child marriage on the victims and the Nigerian society.
  3. Interrogate national and international legislation relating to child marriage.
  4. Determine the challenges of NGOs in combating child marriage in Nigeria.
  5. Examine the roles of national and international NGOs in curbing and/or eliminating child marriage.

1.4 Research Questions

The study will be anchored by the following questions:

  1. What are the factors that result in child marriage in the Nigerian society?
  2. How does child marriage influence the victims and the Nigerian society?
  3. What are the existing national and international legislation relating to child marriage?
  4. What are the challenges NGOs face in combatting child marriage in Nigeria?
  5. How can national and international NGOs curb and/or eliminate child marriage in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study is important, given that it discusses a serious form of child abuse and violation to child and human rights. Plague to not just the national community, but international community as well.This study will explore the decadence of this practice, and awaken the general populace on the menace of child marriage, and why the practice should be stopped. Hence serving as a deterrent to further practicing of the menace.

Furthermore, this study will explore the practice of child marriage in relation to the efforts of NGOs, and how individuals, nations and international bodies can support the efforts of this NGOs in eradicating child marriage. The study is important because child marriage affects children which make up over half of Nigeria’s population. Although government has the responsibility of curbing this, NGOs have taken this up, and this study will help individuals identify ways that they too can help curb this practice.

This study will benefit individuals, governments, civil societies, international organizations and research institutions. This study must be carried out now, because the earlier we start saving children from such practices, the earlier we start saving the future.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The thematic scope of this study is limited to the relations between NGOs and child marriage in Nigeria. Child marriage is a growing menace that affects the vulnerable of society (children), and Nigeria, considered to be the giant of Africa, is ranked top ten African countries with the highest child marriage rate, according to UNICEF.

The geographical scope of this study is limited to Nigeria, as victims from the country will be interviewed.

1.7 Methodology

The research design for this study would adopt a qualitative format. The research would make use of primary data which would involve the interview of three victims of child marriages, currently being rehabilitated by various NGOs. Victims are from the north eastern and north central part of Nigeria. , and two officials/volunteers in NGOs that combat child marriages such as; Girls Not Brides; a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organizations from over 100 countries committed to ending child marriage. CARE, an international humanitarian organization for under-aged brides. SAVE THE CHILDREN; an international organization that prevents child marriage and other forms of child abuse.

The research would also make use of secondary data which would include documents and records of past instances of child marriage, publications, and data archives of NGOs, written or oral information from witnesses.

The method of data collection is interviews. The instruments of data collection are structured? Unstructured interview guides.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms


The legal definition of a child, as used in this study, refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. A human being below the age of 18 years is a minor.


A culturally recognized union between people, called spouses, which establishes rights and obligations between them.


Non-governmental Organizations are non-profit, independent of governments, and are active in humanitarian or social areas.

Non-Governmental Organisations And Child Marriage In Nigeria

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Non-Governmental Organisations And Child Marriage In Nigeria


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