Aside insurgency and its attending violence, displacement and hunger, a major ill bedeviling communities in Northeast of Nigeria is forced child marriage. Fortunately, this is one major area intense activities of Civil Society Organisations are beginning to record significant success amongst others. Gboyega Alaka who beamed searchlight on their activities in the region, reports.
Until very recently, forced child marriage or marriage of under-age children against their wish was commonplace and a norm in Damara community in Pulka, Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State and environs. Parents literally married their girl children off to men of their choice, irrespective of the age difference or whether the young girls have any iota of feeling or affection for the man.
In most cases, it was about what the parents could benefit, directly or indirectly from the man. As a result, young girls have been known to attempt running away or facing a bleak future of loveless marriage. Often, intercourse in such marriages take various shapes of rape upon rape, as the unwilling girls scarcely give their body willingly. And that is not leaving out other gender-based violence (GBV) such as physical abuse, verbal, even emotional abuse.
However, thanks to Borno Women Development Initiative (BOWDI), a Borno State based Civil Society organisation, this seems to be a thing of the past.
According to Hajia Isa Yagana, wife of Alhaji Isa Yagana, a native of Bama, forced child marriage is fast becoming a thing of the past. According to her, they were made to see reasons, following series of workshops, meetings and enlightenment from members of the Borno Women Development Initiative, who came to the community to speak with them and make them see why such practices are against modern times and hence archaic and should be dropped.
Another CSO making its impact felt tremendously in Borno State is Smiling Hearts Initiative (SHI).
According to SHI’s Project Manager, Framni Babayo, Smiling Hearts Initiatives International is a humanitarian non-government, non-profit organisation founded in Borno State, Nigeria, which started operation in Nigeria in 2016 as Zumunchi Hearts Initiatives International before officially registering under its current name in 2018.
The organisation’s principal mission is to deliver services to humanity in all areas of the world without sentiment of any kind, while its vision is to create a society where the least in the society have access to social amenities, facilities and fair protection as citizens, even in emergencies (working with refugees and in IDP camps).