Travelling through communities and across different states in Nigeria, young girls and women suffer similar barriers of inequality, injustice and unfair treatment at home, school, offices and public spaces. 30 years ago, 194 nations signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),” the most rapidly and widely ratified rights treaty in history”. 25 years ago, more than 30,000 women from 200 countries arrived in Beijing for the World Conference on Women determined to recognize the rights of women and girls as human rights (UNICEF, 2019); and 25 years ago, at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, over 20,000 delegates from across the world affirmed the need to achieve universal education; reduce infant and child mortality; reduce maternal mortality; and promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services including family planning to all. The promises made by governments and stakeholders on these platforms and treaties, was only enjoyed by some, not all.
It is on this basis we are tasking government to act, and to act fast with action, on their promises. #TimeToActSRHR symbolizes a call to action by young sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates in Kano and Kaduna states to call the attention of policy makers to create new policies around adolescent and young person’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to implement the already existing policies especially those that seek to address the practice of child marriage in the states, and to get young people access on information and services about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Supported by the Population Reference Bureau, the campaign in Kano state wants the Kano state government to domesticate the Child Rights Act. If passed, the act will ensure the rights of children and young girls are protected against harmful traditional practices like child marriage and ensure girls have equal opportunities to complete their secondary school education. Beyond using videos to campaign for these issues, these young people are making progress with on community at a time. Zainab Sunusi Muhammad, one of the survivors of child marriage the advocates met during community outreach in Kano stae, was married at 14 years, and divorced months after the marriage after she got vesico vagina fistula. She was blamed by her parents for “contracting the disease”. After a successful community and advocacy outreach with an inclusive lens of Kano state who was married at 14 years and came down with Vesico Vagina Fistula, one of engaging the parents, religious and community leaders and other young people, the parents of the child survivor has decided to allow her resume school and are standing in against child marriage and promoting girls education.
The campaign by young people in Kaduna state focuses on the need for the adoption of a Youth Reproductive Health Policy that promotes age appropriate and culturally relevant information and access to contraception and contraceptive services that meet the needs of adolescents and young people in the state. The young women decry not having access to family planning services/commodities; and through creative engagements, the community leader is standing in as a champion of family planning for families.
These generation of millennials are fresh, vibrant, know what they want and are ready to hold leaders to account on their promises. They are coming out with a collective voice of action, an are saying to governments, it is #TimeToActSRHR on their promises made after 25 years.
This year celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child 2019 is a commitment to all young people, women and girls that we will continue to live up to the ideals of an equal and just world where people will be accorded same respect and opportunities beyond their gender identities. We will continue to be at the frontline to advocate against child marriage, ensure girl child complete their secondary school education and ensure that youth, women and girls are included on issues that concerns them and promote their rights with regards to their sexual and reproductive health.
I call on the Kano state government to prioritize the need to support and pass the child rights act and the Kaduna state government to adopt a comprehensive reproductive health policy for young people. Join us as we take action , speak up and make our voices heard as we hold our leaders to keep to their promises and act #TimeToActSRHR