Children in Niger are being forced to drop out of school and there are fears food shortages may be an aggravating factor in girls being sold into marriage from as young as seven, warns World Vision UK.
Today the international children’s charity formally launches a ground-breaking campaign to inspire people to support its work in the region. #ShareNiger has already reached more than two million people on Twitter – urging people to take action because:
• 16,000 children in just one area – Tillabery – have been forced to drop out of school to support their families. Often this means young children are sent away to towns to work – making them vulnerable to abuse and trafficking.
• Four million children under five are at serious risk from acute malnutrition across West Africa – a million of them from severe acute malnutrition.
• Child marriage is a serious concern in Niger. 37.6% of girls are currently married off before the age of 15 – the second highest figure in the world
Fatima Soumana, a state child protection director in the Tera district says she recently rescued a girl of just seven who had been sold off for marriage because her desperate family could no longer afford to feed her.
“A girl’s mother died in childbirth…I went with the aunt to register the birth at the courthouse and a seven year old girl came with us,” says Fatima. “When I asked who she was the aunt told me she was her daughter-in-law. I realised that the young girl had been sold to the family and married off to their twenty-year-old son.”
“The legal age for marriage in Niger is 15 for girls and 16 for boys. In reality, girls are married off as young as seven,” Fatima continues. “I will die for these children. They and their families are relying on us”
World Vision Niger National Director Esperance Klugan says even one case of a seven year old being sold for marriage is one case too many. “There are many reasons people give for early child marriage but the food crisis appears to be making it worse. It’s a desperate decision for a parent, but marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed. We do not want to see one more case of this happening in Niger”.
World Vision UK and top parenting blogger Sian have joined forces to raise awareness through social media of how children are especially at risk from the food crisis. This week they are in Niger and will be streaming live video on Facebook, downloading Flickr galleries, and providing web chats between Niger and British schoolchildren. The #shareNiger tweets have already reached 2.79 million tweets – from bloggers to celebrities to UN Ambassadors
“I’m a mother of girls aged 8 and 10 myself; at this age children should be playing and learning, not going to work or marrying and having their own children,” says Sian. “We need bloggers around Britain to come together and take action now to save these children.”
“It’s less than two years since the last food crisis, there has been no time for these communities to recover,” says Justin Byworth chief executive officer of World Vision UK. “Without action – food and money now - the consequences will be dire - and it’s children who bear the brunt.”
For more information, case studies of child brides and working children, interviews with Sian To and World Vision link- ups in Niger please contact:
Ann Graham, World Vision UK Emergencies Specialist
email@example.com 07594 518988
Sarah Hill, World Vision Head of News
Sarah.Hill@worldvision.org.uk 07740 640884
Notes to editors:
1. To join the #shareNiger campaign on Twitter, follow @GeekisNewChic @LizScarff @WorldVisionUK or search #shareNiger. You can also visit https://www.facebook.com/worldvisionuk or http://www.storify.com/WorldVisionUK/shareniger
2. World Vision is appealing for $62m to help 1.5 million of the most vulnerable people in the five worst affected countries. For more information please go to www.worldvision.org.uk/westafrica
3. Source on early marriage in Niger by age of 15: Demographic and Health
Survey (DHS) Data, http://www.measuredhs.com/ (Nov. 2007)
4. Source on marriage in Niger by age of 18: ICRW, 2007.
5. Source on children leaving school in Niger: World Vision West Africa Crisis
report 30 March 2012
24 May 2012