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This year alone,12 million under-18 girls will get married, says UN

THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says an estimated 12 million girls below the age of 18 will be married off in developing countries and another 21 million between the ages of 15 and 19 will become pregnant.

To commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, which is marked on every October 11, the UN urges governments across the world to come up with specific policies and programmes targeted at the education and protection of girl children.

“Across the world, girls face adversities that hinder their education, training, and entry into the workforce. They have less access to information, communication technology and resources, such as the internet where the global gender gap is growing,” reads a message on the UN Women website.

Though the proportion of girls who got married before the age of 18 in the last decade fell from one in four girls to one in five, the UN says the rate is still way slower than the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate child marriage by the year 2030.

“At current rates, more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030,” a UN report read.

“Evidence shows that girls who marry early often abandon formal education and become pregnant. Maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are an important component of mortality for girls aged 15–19 worldwide, accounting for 70,000 deaths each year.

“If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant’s risk of dying in its first year of life is 60 per cent greater than that of an infant born to a mother older than 19. Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth weight, undernutrition, and late physical and cognitive development

The Child Rights Act, which was domesticated in Nigerian 2003, pegs the legal age for marriage at 18. Part three of the Act dwelt on the “Protection of the rights of a child”, and section 21 of the act states as follows: “No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”

However, not all the states in Nigeria have domesticated the Act.

On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012, and every October 11 of subsequent years as inaugural International Day of Girls. The objective is to create more opportunities for girls and increases awareness of inequality faced by girls around the world based on their gender.

The theme of the 2018 edition of the celebration is “With Her: A Skilled Girl Force”, which is aimed at challenging people all over the world to support girls everywhere as they inspire, innovate and take charge of their own future.

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