-Igwe Dr. Emeka Ilouno Jp
By Francis Okoye
HRH Igwe Dr. Emeka Ilouno, Igwe of Ifite Dunu, Anambra State and the medical director of Madonna Specialist Hospital Awka has given expert advice on how Nigeria can fight against Girl Child Marriages (Early Marriage) in the country.
He was speaking on the topic “Dangers of Early Marriage” at the V2P, Voice to the People, JDPC Onitsha open Form-Girls Parliament: Mock display/Awareness Creation on Dangers of Early marriage at Prof. Dora Akunyili Women Development Center Awka.
According to the medical expert ,”Every year 15 million (28 girls every minute) are married before the age of 18, some child brides are as young as 9 years. An Ex -Governor and Ex-Senator in Nigeria married a 13 years old girl from Egypt few years back. Early marriage poses serious health problems for mother and child. Sexual intercourse at a young age is associated with such pregnancy related problems and complications as obstetric fistula eg in Cross River, they belief that if you have sexually transmitted disease, the best way to treat it is to make love to a child ie 1 year, 2 years old but this only transfer the disease to the child. Early marriage also face life threatening ectopic pregnancy and other complications like rectal fistula, vaginal fistula, foot run where nerve of mother is damaged. Psychological trauma, in which the person cannot control feaces or urine, goes out in the street to start begging after being divorced by husband”.
“Some victims have not seen menses once since marriage, most don’t finish school or work, hence dependent on man. They lack companionship. I recall a case of early marriage who gave birth while still breast feeding. Most don’t go to hospital to deliver but at church or backyard. They also suffer most from maternity blues, no friends, many commit suicide. No respect, knows only ‘yes sir’. Child brides – let none wish it on another.
On what individuals can do if they hear of someone planning to marry off a child is to advise the child of the Dangers of early marriage, tell the parish priest or pastor about it, seek adults or elders of like mind to intervene, if you do this, you have done all you should do.
The event drew participants from Anambra West –Innoma, Oroma Etiti, Ayamelu LGA – Umueje, Umumgbo, Omor, Anaku, Anambra East – Umuona Anam, Umuleri, Nnado, Ogbaru LGA – Akili, Ossomala, Awka North and South LGA s – Amaiyi, Idemili North – Umuoji, Oraukwu, Ideani, Idemili South – Ojoto, AkwaUkwu, Nnokwa, Dunukofia – Umudioka, Umunachi, Ihiala – Ihiala, Osumohu Mbosi, Isseke, Orumba North – Ndi Owu, Awa, Ama Etiti and Onitsha.
Participants gave an overview of V2P successes in Anambra State which has opened the eyes of the people to know that when they speak, government listens and acts, and which has led to a woman becoming a member of Igwes Cabinet in Umuoba Anam.
Mr. Uche Madubuko – Manager JDPC Onitsha on behalf of JDPC Onitsha, JDPC Awka, JDPC Nnewi, and V2P project partners like DFID and Christian AID Nigeria gave objectives of the forum to include skill development/capacity strengthening – giving people training to know what they don’t know. As a result of this work, more than 80% of communities in Anambra State are involved in making State budget as they wrote budget needs and it was part of 2015 budget. Other objectives include Gender output – participation in governance especially by most vunerable ie Adult women. Thirdly bringing people to government by organizing advocacy interaction, constituency briefing projects and lastly – net working.
Girls who want to join the girls parliament can join the facebook group, Girls voice in governance and whats App group-all girls who attended would be part of these platforms which would be used to share practical experiences as a girl.
He said that two things that brought us here is to build courage and confidence and secondly, thinking representation – we are not thinking of gender quality, but balance and equal opportunities.
The event continued with a debate on early marriage by 8 girls from Anambra parliament and a mock parliamentary sitting on early marriage by V2P Girls parliament on abolishment of Girl child (early) marriage in Anambra State.
After the event, in an interview with Igwe Dr. Emeka Ilouno JP, pleaded with the Federal Government that they already know all laws and treaties, they should enforce the laws and give opportunities to our girls who suffer psychological effects of early marriage, and enforce it. “FG should embrace Advocacy, give benefits to make parents not allow children to go into early marriage and provide alternatives like money. The ministries, school, churches, religious bodies should educate the children to get to know about Dangers of early marriage, to avoid a life of regrets, and community should ban parents from early marriage practices.
The forum also used the medium to appeal to the Anambra State House of Assembly to pass law against early marriage