Fighting the Good Fight
Jul 2013 22

For the Past few days, the Nigerian social media space has been in uproar. This extended offline on the 20th of July where-in people gathered in few states of the nation to sign a petition to stop Child marriage.
Child Marriage became an issue about a week ago when the Nigerian senate, in the ongoing constitution amendment procedure, tried making changes to Section 29(4) to remove a clause in the “Renunciation of Citizenship” provision which said “once a girl is married, she is of age”. This was wrongly (I stand to be corrected) interpreted to mean; a child could be married at any age and she becomes “of age”. The Senate however did not obtain enough votes to remove this addendum.

My Blackberry Messenger, My Twitter, My Facebook have all been filled with pictures and updates saying “She’s a child not a bride”.

The #ChildNotBride trend was started by a few and was jumped on by thousands of others who felt jumping on the bandwagon was cool. Mass Hysteria is amazing. That feeling of doing what everyone is doing can also be fulfilling, but the problem is most of them did not understand what they were fighting for. Sometimes, it is necessary to take a critical look at situations and understand that it is one thing to have a good intention, but another thing to take it in the right direction.

I heard a number of people say “The senate has passed a bill to legalize underage marriage”, and it baffled me.
Is this how we, the future leaders plan to lead? By jumping on bandwagons and not knowing what we are up against? The information spread like chinese whispers and at the end of the day, most people had really no idea of what was going on?

The part of the constitution that was being amended is the “Renunciation of citizenship” provision and thus, it means, no matter what amendment is made there, it has no effect on the stipulated marriagable age. So you see people fighting for that clause to be removed but at the end of the day, they have no idea that the fight has not been won. There still will be no stipulated marriageable age.
Successful people are those who plan, strategize, take risks and have contingency plans before embarking on anything.
If we do not know what we are petitioning for, or what we are protesting against, then we do not know the results to expect so whatever we get, we’ll most likely accept.

Moving on, The Nigerian Constitution has no “Minimum marriage age” anywhere in it. If this is not fixed, this problem will go on.

There is a Marriage Act which states that people under the age of 21 need parental consent but it still does not give a stipulated age for a child to be married off.

In Section 21 of the Child Rights Act, it stipulates that Underaged Marriages are void. However, this Act has been adopted by 24 out of the 36 Nigerian states.
If all states can adopt this Act and adhere to it, then Section 29(4) of the constitution will cease to be an issue because, If you say “Once a lady is married she is of age”, there is already an act that says she has to be 18.

Basically, our fight should be; “We need a stipulated age for marriage that will be applicable to every state and everyone in the nation of Nigeria”
But if at the end of the petitions and protests, our requests are not adhered to; what are our plans to help these children?
-To Educate their parents one-on-one?
-To Sponsor these children’s Education in every little way we can?
-To Educate the parents on VVF (Vesico Vaginal Fistula) known to affect underaged girls exposed to sex?
When tackling situations we should always have an aim. There is a popular description of goals which says; Goals have to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Fortunately for us, the senate claims this constitution amendment procedure is participatory and they are open to inputs from the public. At our disposal is the unrestricted Social media space wherein we can contribute as much as we want.
While we give this inputs and make comments on what we feel should be amended or not, are we doing it the right way? Are we researching enough to know if what we want to be amended is necessary? Have we found out if our request is possible?
We do not want our voices to be lost. Yes, some of us do not mind writing articles on articles because we desire ratings and we want that traffic to our websites but in the end it is not worth it.

Nigeria is our Nation to build. It is a collective effort. Few drops of water make an ocean, but we cannot make that ocean if we keep sprinkling those drops of water on sand or a cemented ground.
With the right intention and the appropriate direction, we can make changes. They may look negligible in the beginning but in the end we will be proud of what we have done.