Governor Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai of Kaduna State has noted with dismay that young and teenage girls in Nigeria, especially in the north, are facing issues detrimental to their well being.
Speaking at this year’s World Population Day in Kaduna on Wednesday, he said, “issues ranging from forced marriages, early motherhood, sexual abuse, gender discrimination and lack of access to basic social services like reproductive healthcare services, education and prompt justice in cases were these girls have been sexually abused.
“Teenage girls need to be given the necessary tools and opportunities to make informed decisions about their lives and future.
“That is why this administration has been pushing for the domestication of the “Child Rights Act”, as a necessary tool that will give girls the protection that they need and a fair chance for self-realisation.
“In addition to these, we are also strengthening our justice system to speedily respond and tackle cases of rape and other forms of violence and abuse against the girl child in the state and we can tell you that this effort has been yielding positive results.
“We are investing massively in educating our children. Just recently, the State Assembly passed an executive bill that gives every child access to 9 years of free and compulsory basic education in the state.
“When this bill fully comes into operation at the commencement of the next academic calendar in September, parents that refuse to send their children to school will face the law.
“By doing this, we are ensuring that all children, the teenage girl inclusive, will have the right to a proper academic foundation to develop their potentials fully , thereby empowering her to live a fulfilled life.
“The efforts of the Kaduna State government particularly in the area of education have not gone unnoticed, just a couple of months ago, the state received 21 Million USDollars as grant from The World Bank.
“We are also increasing access to healthcare services to all children through our comprehensive healthcare programmes.
“Through this intervention, we are equipping primary healthcare facilities in all the 255 wards in the state and stocking them with drugs and medical equipment to increase access to quality healthcare.
“We are also rehabilitating and equipping 23 Secondary Healthcare facilities in 23 LGAs for a better referral system and improved healthcare services for all residents of Kaduna State.
“All public hospitals are providing free treatment and drugs to pregnant mothers and children under the age of five. These interventions will definitely go a long way to help in tackling the numerous health challenges faced by our teenage girls.
“As we observe this year’s World Population Day, I want to assure all our development partners of our commitment to uphold the fundamental human rights of all persons including teenage girls.
“I also want to reemphasize the fact that when a teenage girl has the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to realize her full potentials and become a positive force for change in her community.
“Currently, Nigeria ranks high among the contributors of out of school children in the world, with Northern Nigeria leading in this ugly phenomenon.
“According to a UNICEF report, 40 per cent of Nigerian children, aged 6-11, do not attend any primary school and the northern region records the lowest school attendance rate, particularly for girls. As a government we cannot allow this dangerous phenomenon to continue as it is dangerous for our collective future.”
Refering to the theme of this year’s World Population Day, “Investing in Teenage Girls,” Governor El-Rufai said that it was an issue that the present administration was passionate about because it firmly believes that every girl should be given the opportunity to grow into a productive adult, contributing to the growth and development of her community.