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HomeNewsCLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGES THE RIGHTS AND WELLBEING OF THE GIRL CHILD

CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGES THE RIGHTS AND WELLBEING OF THE GIRL CHILD

Save the Children International Nigeria in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child with the theme “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership & Wellbeing”, calls for better strategies to address the intersection of climate change and gender equality to ensure a brighter and more sustainable future that safeguard the rights of girls in the face of climate crisis.

Climate change is an all-encompassing crisis, impacting the livelihoods, environment, health, safety and education of communities. Vulnerable communities, particularly girls and young women, suffer its worst consequences. The climate change impacts can disproportionately affect girls and women who often bear the burden of caregiving and household responsibilities. Gender inequalities can perpetuate harmful practices like child marriage, limiting girls opportunities for education, development and empowerment.

It is to be recalled that the new global report released on the eve of IDG 2023 by Save the Children – “Girls at the centre of the storm: Her planet, her future, her solutions” – also shows that around two-thirds of child marriages happen in regions with higher-than-average climate risks.[1] Currently an estimated 29.9 million adolescent girls live in the top 10 child-marriage-climate hotspot countries[i]

Some states in Nigeria have witnessed severe effects of climate change in the recent past, including but not limited to erosions, floods, landslides, extreme weather conditions and drought etc that left many to be displaced, drop out of school, and exposed girls to different forms of abuse.

Falmata*, 12, experienced trauma after losing her brother in the flood filled valley on the way to school. She misses school on rainy days as the gullies are flooded with water deep enough to drown children. She said, “Whenever it rains, we cannot go to school as the valley will be filled with water, preventing us from passing; when it is dry, we have to enter the gully and climb up to the other side to continue to school. There are days we get trapped in school because it has rained and the valley must have been filled up. When it rains heavily, it takes two to three days for the water to reduce, which means no school”.

Other girls like Ummi*, 17, are also threatened by the effects of climate change and were forced into early child marriage. Ummi* said “I was married at the age of 15 due to hardship, It’s been tough, we engage in irrigation farming during the dry season, but still harvest poor produce due to insufficient water. The rainfalls are reduced, which dry our crops and prevent them from growing and when it rains, it falls heavily and leads to flood that damages everything, including our households and crops.”

Rt. Hon. Madina Abdulkadir, Speaker, Borno State Children Parliament, and Girl Champion for Save the Children International Nigeria said, “Climate change is one of the biggest global challenge we face today, it drives conflict across the world, it is also an unpredictable issue that is affecting the lives of girls across Nigeria. Girls in Nigeria face increased vulnerabilities to all forms of gender based violence, poverty, including conflict related sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage, and other forms of violence. Girls tend to work more to secure the household livelihood, and with that they have less time to attain education and self-building that supports them to develop their personal skills, economic opportunities and livelihoods. Therefore, I would like to urge the government to empower and invest in girls more than ever before, because the rights of a girl child matters a lot, her full leadership participation and her well-being in collectives’ values for a brighter nation.”

Faton Krasniqi, Interim Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria said, “One of the most violated rights of the girl child is hampered on her learning and the safe space to reach her full potential. Child marriage is not just a social or cultural issue. It is much bigger than that – a human rights, survival and development issue. The rate of poverty and increased climate crisis further drives the violation of girls right in Nigeria. We need to stand up for the rights of the girl child. Investing in girls’ rights allows them to reach their full potential through education and delayed marriage, turning them into influential leaders and contributors to their communities. Empowered girls play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of poverty and advocating for social change. Effective mechanism and interventions to curb the rave of climate change crisis must be the topmost priority of the government to reduce and eradicate its effect on the girl child and children especially. We must improve data collection and reporting on early child marriage to better understand the extent of the issue and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.”

Save the Children International encourages the enforcement and strengthened laws that establish the appropriate age for marriage for both girls and boys, with no exceptions. Save the Children supports the development of policies that empower girls, protect their rights, and ensure equal access to quality education for all girls, focusing on retention and higher education opportunities. We encourage communities to actively engage in sensitization and awareness campaigns and dialogues centred around climate change. These efforts are vital in challenging prevailing social norms and beliefs that perpetuate early child marriage and the harmful narratives that commodify girls. The active involvement of all sectors is imperative in recognizing and nurturing the leadership potential of girls within their communities. This encompasses their full participation in governance, decision-making processes, leadership roles, and the comprehensive care for their overall well-being.

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