A GIRL CHILD ADVOCATE.
Written by~ Okunola Comfort, Girl Advocate.
I am okunola Comfort from Lagos State. I am a member of the Girls' Voices Initiative supported by Rise Up, Cummins, Action Health Incorporated. I am very committed to advocating for an end to child marriage, particularly for the girls who are the victims of child marriage in Makoko community.
We conducted child-led research and found that 40 percent of girls aged between 10 and 16 years old who get married before they are 18. This is becoming a significant child rights concern in this society.
I joined the Girls' Voices Initiative when I was 13 years old. I have participated in many training sessions and workshops that helped me to be aware of the negative impact of child marriage and I am now very committed to stopping it. Based on the things I have learned, I have undertaken awareness-raising with Makoko community people to spread our messages.
Girls' Voices Initiative is a big platform for us where we can express stakeholders our views and problems and raise our voice against sexual abuse and violence against children. We advocate for change with our community through awareness-raising campaigns to protect children from child marriage. We are united by a committee, which includes teachers, children, parents, stakeholders, express stakeholders, and people from the community.
As a forum, the approach we take to stop marriage is to talk to the parents, to convince them that child marriage is bad for the girls. If it doesn't work, then we go to the Community Chairman with the help of the community leader. But sometimes this work is not easy for us.
In Lagos State, we have the Child Rights Act, which is a law that prohibits child marriage but there is no proper implementation of this act. One of the big reasons for child marriage is poverty. Due to inadequate income, the parents are not able to afford their child’s education. Another contributing factor is that due to social insecurity, parents feel unsafe to keep adolescent girls at home without marrying them. Due to the lack of social awareness, parents and community people remain unaware of the adverse effect of child marriage. Another reason is that people doe not have enough awareness of the consequences of child marriage and there is also a big need to invest more in child rights, child development, girls’ education, and girls’ empowerment.
This is the time to pay attention to girl's education, to make community people aware, and to protect children from sexual abuse and violence. We would like to enjoy our childhood and we would like to see our society become a place where no girls will be the victim of any abuses including child marriage. We want to live our lives with freedom