Can sport stop child marriage in Nigeria?
We are using sport and play based activities to raise awareness about the dangers of child marriage in remote Nigerian villages.
The Nigerian Senate recently proposed amending a section of the constitution. If this occurs the constitution will recognise 13 year old girls as adults, making it legal for them to marry at that age. Several civil society organisations and individuals are campaigning against this amendment calling it horrible, sexist and unfair to young girls.
To raise awareness of what this law would mean sport and development outreach was carried out in a remote village in Nasarawa State, Nigeria. We discussed with the girls (aged 8 – 14) the importance of education, their human rights and the dangers of early marriage.
The team conducting the trainings consisted of three women: Bunmi Akolo a child psychologist, Nnenna Ibeh a youth advocate, and Aderonke Ogunleye a sport for development enthusiast. Bunmi told the girls, “For you to be the total owner of your destiny, you must go to school and become literate. If you want to make impact on your environment and change your community please enroll in a nearby school.” She also encouraged the mothers to allow their girls to attend school and to stop seeing them as an early marriage object.
Nnenna encouraged the girls to think about the options they would have if they do not finish school, this illustrated to the girls how difficult their future would be.
Question and answer session
Question and answer sessions about child marriage and education took place on the field during the volleyball match. After the match they all engaged in physical activities like jogging and stretching. The girls were excited and inspired to play football and volleyball. The winners of the volleyball match received balls to encourage them to continue playing sports.
Notebooks and writing materials were distributed to the girls so they could write down their thoughts about early marriage. One girl, an 11 year old, named Fati wrote, “My father has already given me a husband but I will marry him next year when I turn 13 next year.”
Hope for the future
Hopefully by continuing such trainings we can encourage young girls and their families to keep their daughters in school and out of marriage. And draw attention to the risk of early marriage for their daughters’ futures.