No Sustainable development without the Girl Child Education

Posted September 18, 2013 from Nigeria

January 1, 2013: Discussing with my elder sister….

In her bedroom, it is one of the rare occasions that I enjoyed silent moments with my sister. She showed me her examination results, she leads her class as usual. She has always been an honor student. Now, with a total G.P of 4.3, but she needs a 4.5 G.P to be awarded the university scholarship. This conversation led us to the bad old days.

She changed the topic “can you remember the day when ‘mamee’ wanted to marry me off to that Alhaji?” before I could give a nod, she continued “if she had married me off at that time I wouldn’t have forgiven her today”. I bent my head and said “me too”.

Those years were hard as expected; a widow and her children.

The Alhaji had lovely wives, yes; I could remember vividly, we lived on the same street. He was good to us, but I never realized that “after number six, we still have more than seven and eight”.

We were young; my elder sister should be 15 years. I was tiny, looking like a worm and more of a boy than a girl, may be, my shapelessness saved me and above all, I was rebellious; she was obedient.

Why would such an old man want to marry a 15 year old child? Why will my mother conceive such plan? He was old enough to be our father; I really felt that my mother was in a better position to marry him. My sister wept day and night until one day when she relocated and that was the end of discussion.

She pursued her education, she has three degrees, and she speaks French, English and teaches Hebrew and Greek in Nigeria. Alhaji is dead.

If my sister had married him, she would be in Shukpare Akoko; a farmer, widow with many mouths to feed; just like our mother.

Whenever, I teased her about her love for education, she would say; “ I fought for it and I won, I will study till there is nothing to learn anymore”

That was in 1985, the story remains the same today, India has a sour sweet experience which must be explored.

July 2013: Discussing with Lackshmi about child marriage and cultural differences in Wayanad-India

Here children choose to marry one another, unbelievable but happening. Strange but true. I saw a new thing under the sun. When I heard, I covered my ears, but it does not erase its reality. It is a normal occurrence to see a 12 year old girl married to a 14 year old boy. It is a way of life of some tribal people. It is against the law but it is a usual practice.

This type of marriage leads to automatic self-expulsion from school in a tribal district where there is a 100% drop out in standard 10. These new couples become laborers in farms. The marriage is followed by the birth of a baby through caesarian. After which, the cycle of poverty continues.

The same old story is approaching its end in Maharashtra.

September 2013: With Hazare in Sangli District Maharashtra –India

He began with the culture of girls marrying their uncles, called “father’s sister’s daughter” . This marriage is usually between girls of 12-14 years getting married to their uncles. The main reason for intermarriage is to unite families. It sounds safe but the future of the girl child should be paramount; no education without the girl child.

Hazare revealed that his niece aged 13 did not menstruate before and immediately after her marriage. Her husband sent her back to her parents; she is needed for procreation. It took her 3 years before she menstruated. This is an indication that her body rejected early marriage.

Maharashtra promulgated a law, "anyone who marries a girl below the age of 18 would be reported, arrested and prosecuted". This reduced the incidence of child marriage to the barest minimum, though secretly practiced with high risk.

Child marriage can be abolished by enforcing law and provision of stiffer penalties for offenders. If there is a law, that is strictly adhered to, no one dares commit an offence with impunity. The only country where this law has no effect is Zimbabwe, and within The Apostolic sect. There, the sect leader's dream leads to a proclamation which automatically enslaves the girl child.

Also, in an odd situation like Nigeria, where influential Northern lawmakers support child marriage, the ordinary citizens should take their destinies into their hand and fight for the right of the girl child The girl child’s education is an assurance of a secured future for the world. It must not be sacrificed at the pleasure of some backward and ignorant few.

Comments 8

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  • Mukut
    Sep 18, 2013
    Sep 18, 2013

    Child marriage is a disease which must be eradicated soon. You are right that,though it is abolished under law, it is still practiced in several tribes and classes. Also I have read that child marriage is very high in the state of Rajasthan, western India.

    You must be so proud of your sis for rejecting the man's offer and choosing to instead focus on her studies. And she must be proud of you as well. You are a rebel, for sure and I LOVE for that.

    I have always admired people who refuse to conform to the traditional, conventional so called "status quo". You are one of them.

    I am so so proud of you and fortunate to know you. Enjoy your stay here.

    Love and a big hug,

  • Olutosin
    Sep 18, 2013
    Sep 18, 2013

    My sister, we must appreciate each step we take to make a change, do you know that when you stand for your right anywhere in the world, you are standing for the rights of EVERY WOMAN in the world????

    My elder sister grew to become a community leader, an author and a Pastor; not just a Linguist and teacher!!!!!!! If she was married to that old man, I would have found it difficult to forgive everyone involved because today, she would have become a burden instead of a major contributor, to the progress of our family and our communities.

    Let us explore what is happening in Rajasthan too, we cannot keep silent while those children suffer. In most cases they do not know their rights, they do not have informed consent ad they are pushed around like lamb in the presence of the shepherd; this time around the shepherd are deadly and dangerous also selfish!!!!!

    Those people who refused to conform are the ones who have successfully make a commendable change in the world, we call them "outliers"......where ever you find them, appreciate them and use them in strategic positions. The same mind that was used to create these problems must not be the same minds that must be used to solve them.......We are problem solvers.

    I am so proud of you, I enjoy my acceptance in India. Where you are and you are happy is your home, I was on phone with Ch Urmila few minutes ago, she is insisting on booking my Bus to Bangalore, my sister Cynthia insists on picking at the cantonment and Urmila insisted on that too. I love you all. Always. We will keep on screaming and making the change everywhere we are.

    Thanks for your support, always. i appreciate your words of encouragement.

  • Cali gal Michelle
    Sep 19, 2013
    Sep 19, 2013

    Olu- When I read these accounts of practices that are so deeply entrenched in a society and a culture, I can't help but wonder if/how/when change will happen? What kinds of steps can be taken to change laws, attitudes, practices, and most of all- change hearts? Deep down, I know it will happen when voices such as yours continue to speak. To be heard. Each girl needs to know her value lies within her humanness. Her value is innate; it is not defined by societal practices or expectations.

    Our voices join with yours, continuing to proclaim truth so that girls and women can make choices based on accurate information, not deceptive societal practices. All societies, even the one I live in, have these deceiving expectations and 'rules'. I know my hopes may be unrealistic in themselves, but I will continue to Hope that we all can know our inherent value, and have confidence to make choices beneficial to our collective selves.

    Thank you for sharing this story.

  • Olutosin
    Sep 19, 2013
    Sep 19, 2013

    Thanks so much sister! Hope is what keeps our dreams alive, that one day, the whole world will achieve the just, equal and egalitarian society that we yearn for. Until then, aluta continua, victoria ascerta. Struggle continues, victory is certain.

    Thanks for taking your time to read and commenting.

  • Urmila Chanam
    Sep 21, 2013
    Sep 21, 2013

    Dearest beloved sister, Olutosin,

    Your story touched my heart. I realized from your story set in Nigeria that no matter where we are born, the story is the same. Girls and women are seen as liabilities to be packed off as soon as possible, in the form of child and early marriage. I have found child marriage in India in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Girls as small as 4 are married off to boys as small as 7!! It's not that they only marry very old men. But that is not the main issue. The issue is the future of these young girls who stop or never begin school. They deliver their child much before they are 16-17 years of age and maternal mortality is very high in India because of that.

    I have gained a deeper insight in this phenomenon, thanks to you and your story, my sister!!!

    Wish you more power!!

    Love and hugs Always there for you Urmila Chanam Bangalore India

  • Olutosin
    Sep 22, 2013
    Sep 22, 2013

    If wqe continue to focus on girl child marriage to older men, we will never get around the fact that some girls are married to 14 year odl boys, the issue is the future of the girl-child.............

    You are welcome my darling sister, it pains me to see these gruesome pictures, its like the murder of the girls child :(

  • Yvette Warren
    Sep 21, 2013
    Sep 21, 2013

    It is a sham to pretend that marriage is something more sacred in most societies than a business contract. The legal rights and responsibilities for all resources, including children, taken into and produced during the marriages should be clearly defined and agreed upon by legal representatives of, and the two adult partners. Clergy should be barred from performing the legal status parts of the training or ceremonies.

  • Olutosin
    Sep 22, 2013
    Sep 22, 2013

    Most of the marriages are performed by the grooms not any clergy.