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#ChildNotBride: Let Our Girls Dream Big!

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I will never forget the day I told my parents I wanted to study theatre arts at university. With all the flare of a drama-queen, I told them how I did not want to be a doctor or an accountant like my father nor did I want to be a lawyer-just in case they were hoping. Instead I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to spend my days at university practising dialogue or critiquing movies/plays. In my young mind, I had it down par. I would write my stories and sell them to producers who measured up to my standards. Better still, I would write, direct and act in my own movies- Stephanie Okereke’s style.

As I went on about what I wanted my future to be like, I was elated.  I could see what no one else and certainly not my dumbstruck parents could see, In fact, I was in heaven just from imagining how rich and famous I would be.

Now to my parents, the uncles and aunts who heard about my future ambition, I was queer. It was ‘youthful exuberance’ that was causing my lack of focus, my dad said those years ago. Secretly he must have thanked his stars that I am hopeless at drawing and couldn’t have added artist or illustrator to my list of ‘unserious’ pastimes. Who would employ me, where would I work after a degree in arts? Oh! I would surely starve in a country like Nigeria!

The drama dragged on for many weeks until I accepted defeat; I had no one in my corner plus no money to my name. Anyway, I couldn’t win. So I agreed to study Accounting and Taxation. Four years later, I was a graduate and today, I boast of my ‘mad’ excel skills and joyfully spend my leisure time writing but I have never forgotten what happened.

Recently, in light of the change in current legislation regarding legal age of marriage, in Nigeria, I have had time to think, to ponder and eventually to be thankful. I did not spend four years practising dialogue but I got an education: Education that has guaranteed I am capable of many things- dialogue being one of the many.

I have come to realise how privileged I am to be educated. I now count myself lucky to have had parents who willingly invested in my future. They used their hard-earned money to make sure, that I became someone that they could respect. What a joy it has been for me that I finished my education, worked for a while and then chose to marry. No one pressured or pestered me in any way.

I have followed the debates which have arisen as a result of what constitutes full age and how a woman married is deemed to be of full age. I strongly believe that marrying off a young girl before she reaches adulthood is a sacrilege.  It is an inhumane proposition but truly I am not nearly as bothered about the government and whatever legalities they put in place, as long as it does not become a punishable offense if a girl is unmarried at 12!

What I am worried about though is what kind of parent would want to marry a child off to someone old enough to be her father? Which mother (especially if she suffered the same fate) would want her daughter to be a mother before her 14th or 15th birthday? Have these people not heard about VVF and everything else that could go wrong in an under developed body? Now, what about her future? What kind of life would an uneducated, unenlightened, illiterate woman have in future Nigeria? What knowledge would she pass to her unborn children?

I for one would have called for enlightenment outreach programmes to educate  parents on the dangers of underage marriage except that I am unforgiving and  would rather to see all parents (who as much as whisper about it in their minds) and  the potential ‘sugar- granddaddy’ husbands in jail for a very long time.

Dear readers, what reason(s) would motivate you to give your young daughter away in marriage before adulthood? What do you think is the right age for ladies to start getting married and what is the age limit of the suitors she should have?

Are there ladies, or even men who believe they got married too early? We would love to hear about your experience of marriage.

Also, what do you think the way forward is with regards to this issue?
I remain grateful that I had the time to play with teddy bears, to be in cliques at school, to wear a graduation gown, to have my heart broken before I had to marry anyone. More importantly, I am thankful that I ever had a choice in anything-even the ones I let go of.

What are you most grateful for?

Photo Credit: astoldbytope.com

Kome Olori Agulonu is a writer and trade finance analyst. She is also the CEO of Chunky Jewels, a brand of unique, African inspired costume jewellery sold online in the United Kingdom. You can read more of her writing on her blog: www.shedarestosucceed.com Connect with her via twitter @komeolori or email her at [email protected]

17 Comments

  1. my opinion

    July 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    i have been hearing all abt dz nd i dnt seem reali 2 get it, one thing i do kno is dt, except in places like the core core north, many ppl includin we most northerners dnt do dt. and in most places where it is done, it is deir culture, nd as more nd more of d parents bcome educated in actual reality child marraige is nt as common as it used to b…but it shld nt b mistakened 4 forced marraige, as forced marraige can happen at all nd ny age… evn women above deir 30s have been forced into marraige agaist deir own will!..afta all said nd done, i wld nt gv my daughter out of marriage b4 she completes her sec. education ie arnd 16 or 17yrs, nw after dt if she fills she wnts to get married, she is free…provided d guy is acceptable

  2. my opinion

    July 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    against*, give my daughter out for marriage*, if she feels*

  3. Olori

    July 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    My thoughts are captured here. sayolori.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/childnotbride-na-so-yimu/ .Please read and share.

  4. Ubong Inyang

    July 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    35 CRADLE SNATCHERS

    They seat old men on wise chairs,
    But lacking the tenets of wisdom.
    They gather in circle, house of elders,
    Minds preoccupied with thoughts of fools.
    This throne of legislation of our Nation,
    House of Senate now a Room of Sin-Mates.

    They thrust their fingers fast in the air,
    Singing choruses of “Aye’s” and “Nay’s”.
    Ask me if the world seeks to know,
    They just want to see which way the wind blows.
    For they can’t think nor see beyond their nose.
    Child’s Right clearly points how clueless they’ve become.

    With our votes they ascended that esteemed seat,
    Now they assemble a law to desecrate our seeds.
    They roam our lands coveting virgin soils,
    Seeking whom to implant their seeds of discord.
    Taking a furtive ride on her ignorance,
    All to soil and deface her innocence.

    Not even animals plug fruits when not ripe,
    But beast of men on legislative towers,
    Who bites the bud before it sprouts flowers.
    Perverts striped of good conscience,
    Beseech betrothal to crawling babies.
    She’s still a baby, why want for a wife?

    She might lack a strong voice,
    But definitely deserves a choice.
    Her vote you have denied,
    And still gather in shadows to snatch her Right.
    She is still a child, not yet your bride.
    Look for mates your size, you Pedophiles.

    I have chosen to call a spade,
    What webster had it named.
    If you see how serious our faces have become,
    You will know, that “House of Sin-mates” laughter is no more fun.

    Written by
    Ubong “U and I” Inyang.
    Rhythm n Rhymes.

    • jcsgrl

      July 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Wow! Powerful!

    • Nilla

      July 31, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Nice!!!!

  5. Impeccable

    July 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    It truly is a shame that it’s being considered. Ignorant and uneducated parents definitely play a large part in not only condoning but in instigating such marriages. Poverty to an extent has a part to play. An uneducated man with two or three equally uneducated wives and about 6-11 kids is not thinking about their future, he’s thinking about ‘now’. To him, marrying them off sooner rather than later reduces his perceived burden. It’s not a clear cut case of religion or state of origin like some people think.

    To help these helpless children who are being robbed of a future we not only need to change the law but should also take steps to reduce poverty and increase education. Those two things alone will go some way to reduce the practice and belief in underage marriage and any other related practices that are yet to come to light on a national level. No family planning, poverty, illiteracy…it’s a terrible mix. Of course, not only poor citizens carry out underage marriages, I acknowledge that, I just think this is a good social level to start. Bit by bit…

    impeccablegentleman.com/web/2013/7/25/mindless-idiots
    diarybyemmy.com/have-nation-mindless-idiots/

  6. jcsgrl

    July 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Hmnn Kome, can I ask you a question? Are you truly happy working as an Accountant? I mean do you find yourself reflecting back to your childhood dreams and wondering what if? I’m saying this because I like you had similar dreams. I wanted to be like Anne Harthrop (from Checkmate)…running multiple businesses and conglomerates. I wanted to study business but parents said Business was not for women. Which job would I get? They encouraged me to study medicine. Fastforward donkey years later, I started off pre-med but never applied for med school. It was not my passion. I hated hospitals…still do with a passion. It wasn’t my calling. Thankfully for obodo oyibo I was able to transition to do something I truly love. But I still find myself going back to my childhood dreams. What if my parents supported me? What is they guided me on how to go about fulfilling it? Perhaps they didn’t know better. I haven’t given up on it because the dream is alive in me. Infact when Tyler Perry said that even when you’ve given up, your dreams won’t give up, I hear him. Many times, I’ve given up and let it go. After all I’m not doing too bad, but it keeps burning within me.
    My dear if the dream is still alive in you, I don’t care how successful you may be in other things but you will not come to the fullness of who you are until you’re on a path to fulfilling your dream. I pray we all find true fulfillment in doing what God has put us here to do and not in someone else’s dream for us.
    Sorry I know my epistle is off topic a bit but I had to divert because her first few sentences struck a cord in me. *scrolling back to read the rest of the insightful piece

  7. mrs olori

    July 31, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Hello kome;I like your write up. In dis jet age people whom female children look up to as mentors next to god has decided to come together to put their future;joy;health and life in danger cos of their selfish desires and the helplessness of the poor parents who put their daughter;
    through dis mess cos I know the so called faith desiders wl never let their own daughters go through such but I am sure dis evil mind stakers wl eat out of their bitter fruits directly or indirectly.

  8. Dubem

    August 1, 2013 at 5:42 am

    I don’t quite agree with the age 14 and 15 you put up as a cut-off. Unless I didn’t get your meaning correctly, are you saying it is okay for a 15 year old girl to get married? Think back to when you were 15, could you cope with handling all that comes with married life?

  9. kk

    August 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Child marriage to me is an abomination. A parent who allows that should be flogged in public not to talk of the punishment we should deliver on the so called ‘wise men’ of the Nigerian Assembly. Me think that some of the deliberations and decisions of the National Assembly should be for the common good of all.parochial and mundane considerations should not be the order of the day. We should all say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO in one strong vioce to child marriage. I csn’t imagine a parent allowing such to happen to his girl child. The girl child is not given the benefit of choice,growth and not allowed to dream big to be someone in the society. WHO IS SAYING SHE SHOULD NOT BE PRODUCTIVE OR GET MARRIED? But , the time should be ripe for it. Other Societies have passed through this kind of phase and acceptable norms have been enthrenched. Let us borrow from such societies and frown at things that would not only ridicle us but put us in displeasure in the eyes and mind of advanced polities. We should set the pace for others to follow but not landmarks of irresponsibility.

  10. Clover

    August 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    I’m just shocked that the senate is even discussing this. Yerima or whoever started this should have been thrown in jail at the mere suggestion. It’s like we don’t have enough problems in Nigeria, now we are adding underage marriage to it. Wonders shall never end.

  11. belinda

    August 1, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    I totally do not have any thing to say. Sometimes the acts and reasoning of people completely baffles me. I dnt get dis differences between us, ‘he is a man and so has more rights than the woman’. He is entitled to education, he can do whatever he likes while she can’t do the same. A wife can be flogged but not more than 12 strokes, she can be stoned to death if She commits adultery while her partner goes scot free. Now, our innocent daughters and sisters are being given out to old god forsaken men whose penis has shriveled and who drool from age? Nawah

  12. inosend

    August 2, 2013 at 12:35 am

    yerima started this rubbish with islam as an excuse and the rest of the senators agreed cos they didnt want it to look like they were not in support of anything islam….such hypocrisy, they claim to be practising muslims when they want to score cheap political points yet they dont truly live the muslim life…..alot of them fools who did this have their daughters schooling abroad and dont marry them off that early…..we are not all muslims in naija so all this forcing islamic views down our throat is annoying…all over the world christians give muslims the liberty to be themselves yet everywhere you have muslims they want to force islamic tenets down peoples throat…….we need to fight this for the poor muslims and those from other religions who might want to follow suit…

  13. Temi

    August 2, 2013 at 1:26 am

    Although marrying at a early age its practice in some other State around the world but not in Nigeria. I’m against this whole idea though

  14. kekepearl

    August 2, 2013 at 5:52 am

    #childnotbride# God will surely intervene on our behalf. This is absolute rubbish. How can u marry off a child at such tender age when she barely knws nada? Nawa o, d way some of dis our leaders think eh, a typical example of goats, m certain this idea came frm their anus n not their heads. Perverts!!!

  15. Kk

    August 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Even if we have Muslims in Nigeria,what is right is right.The Muslims claim that their religious doctrine says the girl shd be married at a mature age but was silent on what age is mature age. The question is ‘can we say 14’15,16and 17 are matured enough to face the rigors of marriage. Can they actually make a choice of marriage partner at that age. They definitely need parental guidance.Which right thinking parent would want to marry away an immature child in the face of today’s realities. It therefore be hooves on us to set the standard based on experience,understanding and norms that portray us as civilized humans who are aware of the challenges.Why pluck the fruit b4 it is ripe? Is someone afraid here or are women are now unwanted commodities to be quickly got rid of before they become of age. It is sad if we allow this slight on our sensibility . Let the women speak out.It is like they are either not aware of the bill or are indifferent ? Have they resigned themselves to faith?what of Beijing ,what of the rights of the underprivileged women? I am yet to see any meaningful protest or speak out by our female folk. I know all over the world and in history how women directly or indirectly have caused things to happen.What of the power of pillow talk? Our females need to use that which they have to do justice to this matter. I rest my case…….ooooooooo

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