NIGER – Changing Attitudes towards Child Marriage…


Changing attitudes towards early marriage in Niger



Sahira Sahira

Many little girls dream of the day they will get married. But for some, this day arrives too soon. In Niger, in West Africa, one out of two girls is married before she turns 15. The country has the world’s highest rate of forced and early marriage, a practice which puts girls at risk of early pregnancies and the complications this entails. But the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working to change attitudes in the country. Daniel Dickinson reports.


SFX: Ambient sound and footsteps

Sahira, a 15 year old girl, accompanies her mother to a government office in the Maradi Region in Niger. Although she has just entered adolescence, her life has been changed forever.

Like her mother and countless other women before her, Sahira has been married off to a man she has never met…a man three times her age.

Sahira’s mother did not want her daughter to suffer this fate. But the girl’s future had been decided by her father and the community.

Maimouna Abdou is a government social worker.

ABDOU_French: A girl who refuses to accept the decision of her parents is considered to be outside the boundaries of society. And it’s all the pressure of society that makes many of them accept the marriage even though they do not really consent.

SFX: Car and women talking

Maimouna Abdou, drives out to Sahira’s home where she’s met by the girl’s mother. Sahira and her mother had visited her earlier to seek a divorce.


Sahira: I did not want this man to touch me, so he used to insult me and beat me.

(Man’s voice) How did he hit you?

Sahira: With his fists.

Abuse aside, early marriage is dangerous to young girls like Sahira.

According to UNICEF, the country has the world’s highest rate of forced and early marriage, with one out of two girls married before they reach age 15.

Doctor Lucien Djanikbo is an obstetrics specialist at Zinder Central Maternity Hospital.

It is one of only two hospitals in Niger that can repair fistula, tears in the skin, brought on by long and difficult labour:

DJANIKBO_French: One of the biggest complications that we know is obstetrical fistula. As a result these women often lose their babies and at the same time they also lose part of their dignity because they can no longer control their bladders

SFX: Girls and imam singing

Despite the long-standing practice of early marriage, there are signs of change in Niger.


Imam Malm Magagi is working with UNICEF on this issue:

IMAM MAGAGI_Hausa: Islam is a religion that favors the social well-being of the whole society. So I do not agree for anyone to marry a girl very early, before she is of age to be wed. Because I promote the well-being of the community, I cannot promote an early marriage that could have negative consequences on the health of the girl.

Through the Imam’s intervention, several underage girls have been spared from forced marriages.

UNICEF is also working with Niger’s parliament to have the minimum age for marriage be changed to 18 years.







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