Religious leaders can help educate all Nigeriens about the dangers of child marriage

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Adamou Boubacar Amadou Adamou Boubacar Amadou

Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, with young people representing a substantial portion of the population, and a lifestyle firmly rooted in a mix of cultural and religious faiths. Notwithstanding the extreme poverty level and the patriarchal structure of the society, Nigeriens value moral and ethical practices and hold onto those beliefs. Nevertheless, when there are inconsistencies in our beliefs fused with a lack of proper education, our actions can trigger unfortunate consequences for society and ourselves. The issue of child marriage continues to be rampant in our communities for decades now and, has affected both genders with young girls accounting for the vast majority of the cases. 

While there are many reasons behind such practice, including religious and cultural beliefs and monetary incentives, I think the real problem behind child marriage in my country is the lack of awareness on the damaging consequences for the child. This problem can be solved through proper education of both genders, largely focusing on males, considering the patriarchal society of Niger, as well as the government involvement in creating anti-child marriage law. 

Parents remain the ones mainly responsible for child marriages, and usually look after their own interests before committing such an unfortunate act. Some parents hide behind excuses such as trying to avoid pregnancy which is regarded as a shame upon the family before marriage. However, some parents are just seeking financial gain from the marriage of their children. They do not consider the sad consequences such as domestic violence, death from pregnancy or birth complications of early marriage of their child, and neither is the perpetrator. In a society where people lack knowledge about the outcomes of child marriage, one solution is to instruct them.

In Niger, for instance, education should happen both at children level at school as well as the parents through local media. One feasible approach is to educate citizens is through radio broadcasting, a widely used communication channel in the country. Considering the literacy rate it might be the most powerful channel to reach out to those involved in such acts. To make it even more effective, another relevant element to ending child marriage is through religious channels. In a country that is vastly Muslim where religious leaders have a significant influence on the people, a message that speaks out about the criminal ends of child marriage and the disjuncture with the religious principles will play a critical role in ending the child marriage phenomenon. 

Furthermore, measures should be taken at the government level that abolishes such acts by adopting laws and regulations that will prevent any marriage before the legal age. 

Child marriage is preventing girls from pursuing adequate education, disempowering them and also contributing to the widening gap between genders, thus impeding a country’s socio-economic progress. Ending child marriage is unleashing the country’s potential and fostering its development. 

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