Nigeria Tops West Africa with 22 million Child Brides Says Bisi Fayemi

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Bisi Fayemi, former First Lady of Ekiti State, has highlighted a concerning issue, revealing that Nigeria holds the highest number of child brides in West Africa, with a staggering count of 22 million, making it the highest in the region. She made this revelation during the Women (Wfm 91.7) Conference and Award, VOW2023, themed “Repositioning Women for Greater Impact” in Abuja.

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Fayemi expressed her concerns about Nigeria’s performance on global gender equality and women’s empowerment indicators, suggesting that the country may struggle to meet the majority of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. She emphasized that Nigeria ranks poorly on the Global Gender Gap Index 2023, standing at 130th out of 146 countries. This index assesses economic opportunities, education, health, and political leadership.

She pointed out, “Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of child brides at 22 million, which is the highest in West Africa and 11th highest globally. Not only did Nigeria not meet any of the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we might not meet most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030 either.”

Highlighting the urgency of the situation, Fayemi stressed the need for gender equality and women’s empowerment, stating that Nigerian women are well-educated and prosperous but remain underrepresented in political leadership. Despite being among the continent’s most educated and affluent women, their political representation has declined in the past four general elections.

Fayemi called for collective action to address these challenges, emphasizing the importance of personal commitments to social change, legal and policy reforms, resource investments, and political will to advance gender equality. She also emphasized the importance of solidarity among women across borders to share experiences and document lessons.

The Governor of Kwara State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, commended women for their role in driving societal change and pledged interventions to promote gender inclusiveness in Nigeria. Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Taylor, urged collaboration to transform the Nigerian Women’s movement and combat biases against women’s leadership. Toun Okewale Sonaiya, CEO of Women Radio, highlighted the organization’s achievements and commitment to being apolitical, maintaining editorial independence, and prioritizing female-centric perspectives.

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