Fatima Kagu is a girl child rights advocate from Yobe State. She’s currently a Youth advocate with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the deputy coordinator of YALI, Yobe Hub where she utilizes a strong network in training young people on sexual and reproductive health and rights. She has led team campaigns against SGBV both online and offline. All of which are done to reduce the prevalence of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence happening particularly in the Northeast.
She holds a degree in Microbiology from the University of Maiduguri and currently studying Medicine at Nile University of Nigeria.
In an interview with DPH News, Kagu revealed her views on child marriage, experience and challenges she also had as a child rights advocate.
What are your personal views on child marriage?
A child is anyone between the ages of zero and eighteen. Child marriage is when a person between the age gap is married off. It is a violation of human rights that affects children. These rights include health, education, free from any kind of violence, the right to have a say in matters that affect them.
Their lack of education and economic independence exposes girls to a wide range of issues that limit their prospects such as domestic violence, getting pregnant at a very young age which increases the risk of both maternal and infant death and morbidity. Others are premature death, retarded growth, emotional trauma, vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), prolonged labour, anaemia (shortage of blood), miscarriage, vaginal tear, educational setbacks, accelerated ageing.
During the cause of your fight against child marriage, what were some of the reasons why parents/guardians marry off their children at a young age?
The majority of parents have pushed their girls to Child marriage as a result of economic hardship believing marriage will secure their daughter’s future by making a husband for her care.
Another reason is the cultural norms that insist marriage is a way to protect girls from sexual violence. With that fear, parents marry off their daughters at a very young age.
Do you consider child marriage a form of child abuse?
Yes, by forcing the children into matrimonial homes – child marriage denies children the right to live normal lives, endangering their health and denying the right to have a say in the matters that affect them. The abuse easily moves to other aspects, such as the education, spiritual development and human dignity. In conclusion, early marriage is an abuse of many aspects of a girl’s inalienable rights.
What are your achievement in terms of advocating against child marriage?
I have the option to persuade some parents/guardians on the significance of education and enrolled some girls in school and trained them on skill acquisition so that they will not be a complete burden to their parents.
Child marriage has been in existence for many years and it’s still in existence, what do you think is slowing down its eradication in northern Nigeria?
Laws prohibiting child marriage (Child rights Act) are still not enacted and enforced. Furthermore, More consideration is still needed in addressing extreme poverty which drives so many child marriages. I.e Improved circumstances for families to reduce the incentive to marry off children.
Also, families and girls are still insecure, experiencing a high rate of sexual and physical violence.
Some communities lack schools therefore making girls more vulnerable to child marriage.
How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic affected the fight against child marriage.?
Coronavirus has made the situation for girls more difficult. It has increased some of the social and economic drivers of early marriage, such as lack of access to education, poverty due to loss is income for parents forcing parents to marry of their daughters as they are seen as a financial burden.
What challenge have you personally faced when advocating against child marriage?
Inability to convince community stakeholders against harmful traditional beliefs that support and lead to child marriage. This also included facing lawmakers who are afraid to lose influence in their communities are difficult to work within formulating laws against child marriage.