Abuja - Stella Okafor, the Executive Director of Children and Adult Empowerment Initiative, an NGO, on Thursday criticised the practice of marrying off girls below the age of 18 years.
Okafor spoke at the end of a project dissemination and experience sharing workshop on "Building collaboration to Delay Early Marriage in Northern Nigeria" held on Thursday in Abuja.
She said that delaying early marriage through education was a good idea which would provide exposure to girls on the value they could add to themselves and the society.
She, therefore, urged state governments to assist the project, especially in the rural areas to make the environment conducive for girl child education.
"A girl that is less than 18 years should not marry; let’s keep the Child Rights Act. It is very important as they delay their marriage and ensure that before age 18, they are useful.
Also read: Disasters lead to "dramatic" increase in child marriages - campaign group
"By the age of 18, you will find out that they will be able to think for themselves and the family will now actually see them and know what they can be in future.
"You will find out that from then, you will know a child who is in line of education doing well; the girl can continue and get a good job after that.
"When they have education, they will be matured; they will be literate first of all to know how to handle themselves and as they are delaying they find out that the body system will also mature before then.
"So it’s very important that no child, no girl below age 18 gets married; it’s very unfair, parents are exploiting them and society is exploiting them.
"It’s not good; it’s not fair; they are human beings and they have that right," Okafor said.
Also speaking, Umar Ahmed, the Programme Officer of development Research and Project Centre (dRPC), said the workshop was organised to assess their achievement since 2013 when the project started.
He said the main objective of the project was to contribute toward delaying of early marriage of girls in the northern part of the country, through girl child education programmes such as girls’ camps and mentoring.
According to him, if more girls and their parents are sensitised enough to attend and complete secondary education, that would substantially delay their marriages with overall health benefits.
Ahmed said the organization was partnering with Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, Action aid, Girl Child Concerns and Population & Reproductive Health Initiative, NGOs in the North, to ensure the success of the project.