Children should have childhoods and not be forced into marriages. Help put an end to early and forced marriage and the damage it causes to a girl's health and her well-being. In Minna, Nigeria, where conservative Sharia Islamic law is in effect, the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE) is helping to prevent child marriage by educating girls and empowering them with the life skills necessary to make healthy and informed choices.
In Northern Nigeria, 45% of girls are married- usually against their will -by age 15, and 73% are married by age 18; some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Only 2% of 15-19 year old married girls attend school, continuing the cycle of poverty. They are more likely to be victims of domestic violence; highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; and face a high risk of complications, even death, during pregnancy and childbirth.
INCRESE created the Hajara Usman Girls' Leadership Training Program to provide at-risk girls with leadership skills, educate them about their bodies and rights, and help them develop their ability to respond to inequalities and injustice. These are important tools that can dramatically increase a young girl's self-esteem and give her a voice in deciding her future. The program also engages parents and provides them with information about the benefits of keeping their daughters in school.
The long term impact of empowering girls is immeasurable. Reinforcing the importance of completing their education breaks the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and sexual and reproductive health crises girls face as a result of being forced to marry early. Having well-informed, empowered, and vocal girls not only helps the individual girl but her family and entire community. Investing in their economic potential changes the world, brings about meaningful change, and puts an end to harmful cycles.