It is generally agreed that a major factor driving child marriage is poverty; research conducted by the World Bank group indicates that girls from poorer households are twice as likely to be married off before 18 as compared to girls in higher income households (WBG, 2014). For this reason, two very crucial and inter-linked approaches to tackling child marriage, which are not on the front burner needs to come to the fore.
Conditional schemes where parents are provided with economic resources on the condition that they keep girls in school much longer and delay marriage are in use in India, and of recent, Nigeria, but are not particularly popular in other countries. A probable reason for this is that conditional schemes practiced largely focus on conditional cash transfers and sustaining this in poorer countries could pose a challenge.
A conditional scheme which focuses on the subsidization of government provided services of priority to the heads of households on the condition that girls are not married off early and are allowed to stay in school much longer serves as a better sustained approach. In societies where agriculture for instance serves as a major livelihood, subsidizing government provided agricultural services and improving access to these services on the condition that the heads of households keep girls in school much longer and delay the age of marriage could serve as a sustained approach which will, in the long run benefit the girl child, her parents, and the country’s economy as well.
The second approach to tackling child marriage which is linked to the first approach is setting the conditional scheme to encourage parents to keep both boys and girls in schools as opposed to strictly focusing on girls. There are a number of reasons for this; the first has to do with the fact that in a number of societies marrying off the girl child is also often a cultural as well as a contentious issue and in order to mitigate backlash, encouraging parents to keep ALL children in school is proposed. This approach is being used by a DFID funded local governance programme in Nigeria known as Mobilising for Development (M4D) where facilitating girls’ participation in local governance is subsumed within a broader citizen participation portfolio in order to limit resistance from communities; the idea is that if you are supporting every social group to participate in governance processes, it becomes a lot more difficult for communities to resist girls’ participation within governance processes as well. Another reason for focusing on both boys and girls is due to the fact that boys from poorer households are also less likely to complete their primary education or go to a higher institution (OoSC statistics, 2014).
Implementing these two approaches however has a number of implications; political will to address the child marriage issue needs to be in existence given that these approaches are tied to government provided services, a multi-sectoral response is also required given that services of priority to the heads of households could cut across a number of sectors; the key here is understanding what is of priority first before designing.
In conclusion, it is important to note that this article doesn’t discredit already existing interventions applied to address child marriage; however, there is very little evidence to show that current interventions are truly addressing the child marriage issue; as such it is of importance to test new approaches, or possibly fine tune already existing approaches to addressing child marriage.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of girls marry before the age of 18 (UNICEF 2014). In Nigeria, 43% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday, 17% are married off before they turn 15. The prevalence of child marriage varies widely from one region to another, with figures as high as 76% in the North West region and as low as 10% in the South East.
Poverty, poor educational attainment and strong social and religious traditions have been described as drivers of child marriage. In northern Nigeria, parents have talked about the lack of value placed on education that it is not considered as a viable alternative to marrying off the girl child. The Nigerian Constitution does not establish a minimum age of marriage. The Child Rights Act, which was passed in 2003, sets the age of marriage at 18 years old. However, only 23 of the 36 states in Nigeria have taken steps to implement the minimum age of marriage.
TDii is leading the consultancy to develop the National Strategy to end child marriage in Nigeria. The three year strategy is expected to provide a framework for implementation of programmes that will contribute to the elimination of child marriage to ensure prosperity and social economic transformation of the Nigerian child. The project methodology includes field research in twenty four Local Government Areas across the six geographical regions in Nigeria.Funded by: LIFE STEP PROJECT, SAVE THE CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL
Education has been described as the most important aspect of human development, a key to successful living, especially girl child education (Michael, 2011). The global figure for out of school children is estimated at 121 million, 65 million are girls with over 80% of these girls living in Sub Saharan Africa including Nigeria (UNICEF 2007).
Much research, including the 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report, has noted the long term effects of gender attitudes on opportunities for women in the economic, political and social spheres. These social and cultural biases are reflected and reinforced, particularly in Northern Nigeria, by the exclusion of girls from the education system. In parts of the region, primary completion rates show a 34% disparity between boys and girls. By the completion of junior secondary school this disparity widens to 43% in Zamfara State for instance. Across the region, significantly more boys than girls are completing basic education, thus entrenching systemic disadvantages for adolescent girls and women in later life.
The Northern Nigeria Girls’ Education Programme, which will operate in Jigawa, Katsina and Sokoto states, will increase the likelihood of more young girls completing their basic education in Northern Nigeria.
TDii, in collaboration with Isiro- Multi Services Limited were contracted to scope and document the barriers - cultural, traditional, and other - to the transition, retention, and completion of girls in basic education institutions in Northern Nigeria. For this study, Jigawa State was used as a proxy for the Northern region. The scoping study involved broad based research with a wide range of stakeholders Consultations involved over 120 persons from rural, urban, and peri-urban communities.
FUNDED BY: BRITISH COUNCIL NIGERIA
Nutrition is an important component of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the second of the seventeen proposed SDGs is ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture’. This is intended to achieve sustainable food production, access to nutritious and sufficient food and end malnutrition by 2030.
For initiatives to work, it is important to take into consideration the political and social dimension of the environment where change initiatives will occur. Political economy analysis focus on asking questions about opportunities for reform dynamics and the potential threat of the reforms in the environment it will operate.
The political economy approach shows us that governance for development arises through domestic political processes and contest between interest groups. Such an approach to governance is based not on imposing ‘good practice’, but in looking for the ‘best fit’ to the local social and political context.
TDii was contracted to conduct an analysis of Nutrition Political Economy in 5 Northern States in Nigeria-Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Yobe and Zamfara. The main benefit of the analysis is to prompt a different way of thinking about the sustainability of nutrition programme in the states. The NPEA highlights the importance of relationships, incentives and behaviors, on framing effective approaches to setting agenda for the scale-up of nutrition programmes.
FUNDED BY: WORKING TO IMPROVE NUTRITION IN NORTHERN NIGERIA (WINNN-SCI)
Endowed with abundant land and water resources, Nigeria's agricultural sector has a high potential for growth. Its highly diversified agro-ecological conditions could allow production of a wide range of agricultural products including both tropical and more temperate products. Production of crop dominates other agricultural subsectors contributing about 85% to agricultural GDP, livestock production activities about 10%, fisheries 4%, and forestry production about 1%. Before the oil boom of the 1970s and 80s, Nigeria had a vibrant agriculture sector. The country was food self -sufficient and a key exporter of several agricultural commodities notably cocoa, oil palm, rubber and groundnuts. Excessive real exchange rate appreciation and overvaluation following the oil booms reduced agricultural competitiveness and incentives for investment in agriculture.
As agriculture declined, Nigeria became a significant food importer and agricultural exports all but disappeared. Currently, Nigerian agriculture is predominantly smallholder, subsistence based and weather dependent. The capacity of the agricultural research, extension and input distribution systems are weak and where available, modern technology cannot reach farmers. Most challenging are issues of high risk of agriculture related borrowing, reluctance by mainstream banks, inadequate qualified professional staff, corruption, wrong orientation of the applicants, and urban bias of the micro-finance institutions and paucity of economic opportunities in the country.
TDii established a platform for small holder farmers to facilitate access to finance, education, mechanization and extension services in Wamakko, Kebbe and Sokoto North local governments in Sokoto state. Known as Farmers court, the platform, which started with an initial number of 100 small holder farmers, grouped into 5 cooperatives, has over the period, grown to a 14000 member farmers’ cluster, comprising 700 cooperatives. Farmers were taught the basic processes of documentation in insurance, account opening and book keeping. In conjunction with MARKETS2, a DFID programme, TDii secured the services of extension officers to improve yield per hectare and improved marketing strategy.
FUNDED BY: TRANSPARENCY AND DEVELOPMENT INFORMATION INITIATIVE (TDii)
Nigeria’s Social Protection strategy was developed in 2004, with an objective to reduce poverty and protect vulnerable groups through effective and sustainable risk management mechanism thereby achieving sustainable social protection by the year 2015. This Social protection strategy was developed by the Social Protection Advisory Group (SPAG). In 2007, the MDG-OSSAP office made funds available through the Debt Relief Funds (DRF) to SPAG for the implementation of conditional cash transfers (CCT), this was seen as a social protection instrument to reduce poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals. In 2009, a Social Security Policy for Inclusiveness, Solidarity and Sustainable Peace and Prosperity was submitted to the National Assembly, it was not passed into law.
TDii was contracted to develop a state engagement strategy aimed at securing increased political and institutional commitment to implement effective state –wide social protection programmes that ensure improved nutrition, food security and poverty reduction for women and children. This was mainly focused on researching key governance systems Jigawa and Zamfara states including a study of institutions that may likely house social protection in the states and their key budgeting procedures
FUNDED BY: CHILD DEVELOPMENT GRANT PROGRAM-SAVE THE CHILDREN NIGERIA
Malnutrition is widespread in Nigeria, especially in rural areas, and this is partly due to inadequate food and nutrient supply. According to Smith and Haddad, 1999, malnutrition in early childhood is associated with functional impairment in adult life as malnourished children are physically and intellectually less productive when they become adults. Also, malnourished children tend to have increased risk of morbidity and mortality and often suffered delayed mental development, poor school performance and reduced intellectual achievement. It has been reported that government at both the national, state and local government level in Nigeria have not prioritised nutrition thus, analysts are of the opinion that Nigeria hasn’t really come to terms with the reality of the unending consequence of malnutrition. The Global Alliance for improved nutrition had accounted that at least 10 million children are affected by stunting in Nigeria. According to WHO, one million children under five die every year in Nigeria, 35% of under five deaths in Nigeria are caused by malnutrition and in northern Nigeria, half of all children under five are stunted while one in every five suffers from acute malnutrition. These indices make meeting the target of MDG Goal 4 a difficult task.
Often times, nutrition programs focus on supply side improvements such as policy and institutional reforms, while relying on government led improvement is good, it is not a sufficient strategy to push for the attainment of targets. TDii was consulted to develop strategies for strengthening demand side participation to increase services for nutrition in Northern Nigeria. Developing the strategy involved carrying out a broad based research in thirty communities in five northern states-Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Yobe and Zamfara.
FUNDED BY: WORKING TO IMPROVE NUTRITION IN NORTHERN NIGERIA (WINNN-SCI)