Jude Odufu; North Central Coordinator; wins EduTrust Foundation Grant Award

Congratulations to our North Central Coordinator Jude Odufu for emerging the winner of the EduTrust Foundation Grant Award for his debut community project: Campaign Against Early Marriage; CAEM.

Reposted from EduTrust Foundation;

The most fundamental aspect of making change happen—yet the most challenging—is shifting mindsets, changing attitudes and going against the grain of centuries-old cultures and traditions. It is at the fundamental level of mind-shift that we can achieve miracles and unlock the key to overcoming challenges in our personal, social, economic and political realities. One area where such mind-shift is most needed is the practice of child marriage. By UNICEF estimates, about 650 million females under the age of 18 are married, some as young as 10 to 12 years. 22 million girls under 18 are married in Nigeria. Early marriage not only limits individual rights and freedoms but also stunts education of the girl child, leads to multiple maternal and infant health challenges, perpetuates poverty and inequality for women, entire communities and countries. In Nigeria, early marriage is deeply rooted in culture, religion and social values. Even where state laws, national laws and international conventions prohibit child marriage, a wide gap exists between law and reality owing to deep-rooted cultural practices, religious beliefs, acquiescence and legal inconsistencies. The magnitude of the problem can be intimidating.

One of the greatest challenges of early marriage is that the people who have the decision-making power, influence and potential to end it are the same people who benefit most from it—men. Therefore, there will be no success in ending early marriage unless there is a massive change in attitude and behaviour by men, until the balance of power is restored, and the rights of women and the girl child are prioritized. In 2010, a Nigerian Senator and former State Governor was reported to have married a 13-year old girl. By the same report, he divorced another wife of his whom he married at the age of 15 and who already had a child for him. In his defence, the lawmaker claimed that he had done nothing wrong and that he would not respect any law that contradicted his religious beliefs. Sadly, the case of the Senator is not exceptional. On the contrary, such cases are quite common in some parts of Nigeria.

It is against this backdrop that the project “Campaign Against Early Marriage in Adaka Community (CAEMAC)” is conceived and anchored. Adaka is a community in Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue State. Early marriage has become a stubborn menace in Adaka community. Most teenage girls in the community are housewives who are often trapped in an unending circle of poverty, domestic violence, health challenges, and social and economic disempowerment. In June 2020, a trending video on social media showed a 14 year old girl breastfeeding a child and there was public outrage and condemnation of the situation. Regrettably, in Adaka community, a child breastfeeding another child is a norm which has lingered for decades.

CAEMAC is an education, advocacy and sensitization project conceived as a first step in addressing the challenge of early marriage in Adaka community. The campaign will enlighten the girl child, youths, young girls, women and men on the adverse effects of early marriage and why we must address the root causes of early marriage. The campaign will be open, inclusive, participatory and continuing. It is a campaign for everyone and will leverage on the influence of community leaders, religious leaders, youth leaders and parents to shift mindsets and change attitudes. Highlights include open conversation, special talks by experts, dialogues and decisions on what stakeholders must do to address the situation. To reduce and avoid exposure of participants to the pandemic disease, the campaign will use distance-based planning and organizing. Where contact with the public is unavoidable, we will comply with handwashing, social distancing and other health and safety advice by relevant authorities.

The EduTrust Challenge award will support training and skill acquisition for financial independence for six (6) direct beneficiaries who are married teenage girls and schoolgirls. The campaign targets to reach 1000 people in Adaka community and may be expanded with the support of the Local Government Area Council, community-based organizations, youth volunteers and well-meaning individuals. With the success of CAEMAC in Adaka community, the next step will be to replicate the project in neighboring communities and more widely in Benue State in the long term.

Kudos to Jude Odufu for taking on this worthy challenge!

EduTrust Foundation.