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Child Marriage in Niger 
Niger, one of the largest countries in West Africa, holds the highest rate of child marriages compared to the rest of the world. In fact, 75% of young girls marry before turning 18. This is because the nation’s legal marital age is 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Although Niger has made efforts to reduce child marriage, the country has noted only minimal progress in the last 20 years. As a result, many consequences have arisen from child marriage.

Why Does Niger Have a High Child Marriage Rate?

First, child marriage in Niger harshly affects girls deprived of attending school because they need to rely on others to survive. In addition, many young girls choose to drop out of school because of the unsafe learning environments. As a result, they cannot live an independent life due to the lack of income and confidence to make rational decisions. Due to few other options for their futures, many families decide to marry their daughters off for financial stability.

According to the World Bank, Niger has a poverty rate of 42.9%. However, Niger’s population continues to increase, causing the number of people in poverty to grow. Currently, many families are struggling financially, so they view child marriage as a way to alleviate their financial burdens. Because of this, marriage becomes “a strategy for economic survival” due to the lack of social protection, according to Save the Children.

Moreover, child marriage in Niger is common because many communities believe a woman’s purpose is to become a housewife and bear children. Due to this belief, families tend to prioritize the education of sons over daughters. To add, marrying young is a way that Niger communities attempt to prevent pregnancy before marriage, which is “a source of shame for the family,” Save the Children reports.

Consequences of Child Marriage in Niger

Although families aim to avoid pregnancy before marriage and look for financial stability by marrying their daughters off at a young age, this only causes more damage in the long run. For example, without education, young girls are unaware of the risks of early pregnancy. In fact, these young girls are at greater risk because 30% of the young girls show signs of malnutrition. As a result, “maternal mortality constitutes 35% of all adolescent deaths between ages 15 and 19,” according to Save the Children.

Not only do women face physical challenges but they also face mental health challenges caused by marrying at a young age. This is because young girls have to abruptly transition to adult life and take on responsibilities they are not mentally prepared to tackle. They are still at an age that requires guidance from a guardian. In a BMC Public Health study, many Nigerian girls expressed emotional distress and depression due to fulfilling their marital responsibilities and sexual demands from their husbands.

Due to the common practice of child marriage in Niger, young girls do not have the opportunity to have a childhood and face threats to their lives and health. For instance, some experience domestic violence and cannot return to school to escape these living conditions. Unfortunately, young married girls “have worse economic health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down [sic] to their own children,” UNICEF reported.

How is Niger Receiving Help to End Child Marriage?

UNICEF is working to help implement laws and policies to help end child marriage and work within Nigerian communities to address the social norms that encourage child marriage. UNICEF partnered with the Niger Traditional Leaders and Association and the Islamic Congregation because they are well respected in their communities and can create new rules for people to follow.

Due to these advocacy efforts, the Niger Government created a national action plan, “Towards the End of Child Marriage in Niger,” that convenes every month to discuss what the community needs to do to advocate for better treatment of young boys and girls. Fortunately, “Education sessions by the Village Child Protection Committees were able to prevent cases of child marriage through direct mediation with parents and assisted girls to return to school,” UNICEF reported.

Lastly, Plan International Niger is helping girls establish confidence to fight child marriage in their communities. As a result, the young girls are using their voices and asking their leaders to end child marriage and provide them with an education to gain independence through employment. The Plan International Niger placed child protection committees throughout Niger and provided them with the tools to protect the rights of young girls to ensure change.

Child marriage is common in Niger, but it has far-reaching negative impacts on girls, such as emotional stress and depression. To add, young girls are at risk of domestic violence and pregnancy complications due to their age and malnutrition. These young girls have to become adults at an early age, which strips them of their childhood experiences. Fortunately, many young Nigerian girls are receiving help in an attempt to end the cycle of child marriage.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Child Marriage in NigerBoarding in between the African countries Algeria and Chad, Niger is ranked the world’s poorest country. Considering the country is home to a 16.3% urban population and 83.7% rural population, the lack of resources for those living on rural land is a primary reason for the severely high child marriage rate. This article will list why combatting child marriage in Niger continues to be a prevalent topic today.

High Birth Rate and A Young Population

Niger has the second-highest birth rate globally, which is caused by a high infant mortality rate. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the current infant mortality rate is 80.4 per 1,000 live births. Malnutritionment plays a vital role in children’s health and the lack of proper food and clean water contributes to the mortality rate.

According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger is ranked the lowest at 189 out of 189 countries. More than 50% of the Niger population are under the age of 15, and approximately 89% of young girls marry prior to reaching the age of 18. Less than 30% of those children receive an education, which is an even more prevalent issue among girls. One of the main reasons children aren’t attending school is the extreme poverty within the country.

When a child is sick or suffering from starvation, they become malnourished, which makes them incapable of attending school, and the more often it happens, the less likely they are of going back to school. Combatting child marriage in Niger is seemingly difficult due to the extreme poverty and it makes human development, especially for children and women, extremely challenging to achieve.

A Lack of Independence With a Lack of Education

Niger has the second-highest birth rate globally, which is caused by a high infant mortality rate. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the current infant mortality rate is 80.4 per 1,000 live births. Malnutritionment plays a vital role in children’s health and the lack of proper food and clean water contributes to the mortality rate.

According to UNICEF, married women become dependent on their husbands because their sense of independence is taken away. However, women are, more often than not, engaging in marriage during their teenage years before they are even fully mature, which would explain why their sense of independence is stricken away so early on.

Education plays an important role in child marriages in the country of Niger because the lack of knowledge makes a woman more vulnerable to risky decisions. According to UNICEF, “The link between education and the prevalence of child marriage is particularly evident in Niger: 81% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 63% with only primary education were married or in union at age 18.” The lack of children attending school is a primary reason for combatting child marriage in Niger.

Unstable Government

Niger lacks the ability to properly control and patrol its borders, making it more unprotected and defenseless to possible terrorism and criminals. The government lacks accountability in this area, making it the perfect hideaway for terrorists and drug traffickers. The more unstable the government is, the more vulnerable, yet welcoming it is to child marriages.

Although child marriage became illegal by law in 1999, it is still prevalent today and is plummeting young girls’ social and economic standing. However, with the continuous help from the organization Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), child marriages in Niger and all African countries will soon come to an end. Five female ministers in the education field created the organization in 1992 and are working toward combatting child marriage in Niger. According to FAWE, the goal is to strengthen young girls’ minds in multiple countries in Africa by increasing access to education and ensuring the caliber is up to par for them to benefit from its resources.

FAWE has expanded over the years by remaining in close contact with 34 national chapters to ensure female education grows substantially and it “relates to long-term economic development and its centrality and urgency in education sector planning.” With FAWE’s progression, among other organizations, and the government of Niger taking accountability for flawed areas within the system, young girls in Niger and in other African countries will become more educated and free of potential threats to their personal growth.

– Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in NigerWomen living in Niger face great adversity due to a lack of education, a prevalence in child marriages, and challenges stemming from conflict. Fortunately, many women are taking steps to ensure a better future for their daughters.

Women and girls in Niger are some of the least educated in the world. Less than a quarter are literate and less than a tenth ever attend secondary school. This is a big deal considering that attending secondary school for a year can mean as much as a 25 percent increase in a woman’s earnings later in life.

Niger has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Three in four girls under the age of 18 are married. The legal age for marriage in Niger is 15, but various women’s organizations and groups are hoping for the passage of a proposed law that would change the legal age to 18 years.

Aminata Gba Kamara, aged 19, said “Girls in our country need so many things. They need psychological support, they need counseling. Their esteem is very low.” Many women think husbands are needed for protection, and life outside the home is not given much thought, said Kamara.

Protection is a real concern for many, as conflict is a daily fact of life. In the past three years, over 100,000 women and girls have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee from violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram. There are shelters and places of refuge, but women forced into seeking these often fall victim to a cycle of poverty. Most women fleeing from Boko Haram have been traumatized by physical and sexual violence. There is a normalization of discrimination and violence against women and girls on a daily basis.

Even with all these challenges, there are feasible solutions and women’s empowerment in Niger is a large part of it. Change is being implemented from the ground up, and youth are driving it forward. Campaigns have been formed to raise awareness about the issue and boost the self-esteem of women and girls. Tackling the problem of child marriage is important for Niger, as it will increase the number of citizens attending school rather than staying at home.

There are rays of hope for women’s financial empowerment in Niger as well. For instance, a recent push by CARE to help Nigerien women become financially independent via combined insurance policies and female financial groups has been fruitful. The savings groups, called Village Savings and Loan Associations have been a major factor behind women’s financial empowerment, and serves as a base for improving inclusion, health, nutrition, and agricultural productivity.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr