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The Good News From Emir Lamido Sanusi 11

Nnedi Ogaziechi
Posted: Oct 18, 2016 at 8:18 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ogaziechi Nnedi

Tuesday the 11th of October last week was celebrated globally as the International Year of the Girl Child. In Nigeria, the event really passed without many activities. However, the release of 21 of the more than two hundred abducted Chibok school girls positively coincided with the week of the girl child celebration.

Even when Nigerians are praying for the release of all the Chibok girls and some other nameless girls and women that have also been in captivity since the insurgency started, the release of the 21 was received with so much joy and hope. The released young girls’ appearances spoke volumes and embodied vividly the physical and psychological trauma, anguish, deprivations, stress, want and unimaginable emotional roller coaster they have had to deal with since April 14, 2014 that they were abducted.

Even though they were flown straight to Abuja, many observers felt the media blitz was unnecessary as the girls were in dire need of the services of trauma managers, psychiatrists, doctors and social welfare officers. Luckily, reports indicate that UNFPA would be sending some of the needed professionals to help with the rehabilitation and the needed healing for the hapless young girls.

About two days after the release of the Chibok 21, the Emir of Kano, SANUSI Lamido SANUSI 11 made headlines as he called on his fellow Muslims to take steps towards pegging the Marriage age at 18years. He had reportedly posted the idea on his Instagram page saying, “Time has come when the Muslim community in Nigeria should live by the reality of economic recession and consequences of early marriage”.

He went ahead to list the marriage age in some other Muslim Nations; Egypt, 18, Malaysia, 19 and Morroco, 17. He then asked somewhat rhetorically, “Why not we here urgently call for pegging of marriage ages within Muslim Ummah in Nigeria?” The Emir went further to emphasise that marriage of women fewer than 18 came with dire reproductive health challenges. The Emir should know. He is literate enough to have learnt the consequences of child marriage.

However, the medium of communication from a revered Islamic leader like the Emir appears somewhat too elitist. The issue at hand is too urgent to be restricted to a social media platform. The effects of early marriage in the Northern part of the country are so dire to be allowed to last any longer.

The face of Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) as a predominantly Northern Nigerian reproductive challenge is well documented. It is mostly a fall out of prolonged labour especially in under aged girls and early hostile sexual encounters. This is a very traumatic health challenge that has been properly documented by UNFPA, women rights activists and even film makers. A recent film, ‘Dry’, produced by renowned Nigerian actress, Stephanie Okereke based on the causes and ugly effects of VVF has won various National and International awards for the clarity and depth of the production.

For a country that takes no serious interest in statistics, it is staggering the number of women that are rendered economically and socially unproductive because they are victims of VVF in a country that serious reproductive or even other health concerns seem not to be seen as vital to development.

Beyond the economic recession and health challenges of early marriages, the social and economic implications are very huge. Early marriage is one single great contributor to economic dependence of women in the North. An educated woman would naturally impact and contribute more productively to her family and society and of course early marriage prevents this.

In a world ruled by ideas, mature and educated wives would naturally have better influence on the offspring and in this era of social disconnect, she would be better positioned to raise well balanced kids that can defy influences which can lead them into being recruited by social miscreants and religious charlatans.

The Emir should, therefore, push his message through all the grassroots channels through the right leadership hierarchies as the message would sink in better to the target audience. As a leader and role model, the Emir would surely have his message resonate more with the people as he is seen as apolitical. However, the governors of the Northern states should step up the awareness through any of the most acceptable reorientation channels in each state.

The advice might not resonate with some die hard non conformists who might not be fully aware of the impact of underage marriage but visuals and audio channels should be used to expose the effects in a show and tell manner that lays bare the bad effects of child marriages.

UNICEF statistics of girl child development index in Northern Nigeria might just get better if the Emir succeeds in pushing his idea to conclusive levels. The world economy has shown that healthy and productive women contribute immensely to any country’s GDP. It therefore means that if the marriage age is put at about 18 years, there would be less victims of VVF, less maternal and child mortality and higher life expectancy and productivity of Northern women.

This year’s International Year of the girl Child has been about empowering more girls with education and fighting most societal ills that prevent the girl child from reaching her maximum potentials like illiteracy, sexual exploitation and early marriage. The Emir with this proposal has started a very good conversation that can only get better and be of immense social and economic value not only to the North but the whole country. He truly needs the cooperation of all stake holders.

However, it would be interesting to see how well the legislative arm of government at both the state and National levels can buy into this proposal. It would equally be interesting to see what the Woman Affairs Minister, Senator Aisha Alhassan and female lawmakers from the North can do to see this dream of the Emir turn into reality. The whole nation would be the beneficiary in more ways than one.

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