Stakeholders have blamed the absence of a functional Marriage Registry in the whole of Gombe State for the rising cases of Child marriages in the State.
The absence of a Marriage Registry in the state was revealed during the inauguration of a Technical Working Group on ending child marriage in the State organized by the Gombe state Ministry of Women Affairs in conjunction with Save the Children International.
According to statistics made available at the program, in 2015, an estimated six million girls were married by the age of 15 and 36 million girls were married by age 18 in Nigeria. Child marriage is more prevalent in the North West and North East regions where Gombe State is located.
48 per cent of girls were married by age 15 and 78 per cent were married by age 18 in the same year thus, placing Northern Nigeria as one of the regions with the highest rates of child marriage in the World with an estimated 65 per cent of children married below the age of 18 years.
According to the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Gombe state Ministry of Women Affairs, Suleiman Doho, who represented the state Commissioner, Hajiya Zainab Adamu Julde, the existence of a Marriage Registry would have greatly reduced the incidences of child marriage in the State.
He explain that a Marriage Registry serves as a place of counselling on suitability of couples, runs tests, advises and performs many other functions to ensure that couples stay comfortably with their partners.
The stakeholders also blamed the failure to pass the Child Rights Law which the committee set up to domesticate the National Child Rights Act in the state had long concluded its assignment on for the increase in child marriages.
The State Commissioner of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Adamu Julde, whose speech was read by the acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Suleiman Doho said the National Strategy Document on ending child marriages in Nigeria will suggest what can and should be done to end child marriages, harnessing relevant policies and legislation, changing harmful cultural norms and support community programs.
He said it will also maximize foreign assistance, increase access to education for girls, provide young women with economic opportunities, address the unique needs of child brides and evaluate programs to determine what works that can be brought to scale.
According to the Commissioner, “Child marriage is one of the developmental challenges affecting children in Nigeria. Nigeria still faces the daunting task of harnessing its vast natural and human resources to effectively reduce this harmful practice”.
The National Strategic Plan to End Child Marriage in Nigeria 2016-2021 aims to highlight the multi-sectoral, multi-faceted activities needed to bring about successful elimination of this harmful practice based on the premise of a strengthened coordination platform led by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
The key actors for this include but are not limited to various MDAs such as health, education, internal affairs, budget and planning, traditional and religious bodies, civil society organizations, foreign and local donors and implementing partners.