A major win for out-of-school Nigerian girls


Update

May 8, 2018

Last week, Nigerian education activists achieved an important win in the fight to see every girl in school when Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State signed the Child Welfare and Protection bill (Child Rights Act) into law. This new law guarantees all children in Kaduna the right to free, quality basic education and prevents marriage under the age of 18.

This progress is the result of a nearly two-year-long campaign from my organisation, YouthHubAfrica, with support from Malala Fund’s Gulmakai Network.

In 2003, the Nigerian central parliament passed the Child Rights Act. But for the law to take full effect, all 36 states must also ratify it. To date, only a few northern states have passed the law. At YouthHubAfrica, we focused our advocacy in Kaduna State in northern Nigeria because that is where the majority of out-of-school girls live. We knew that if Governor El-Rufai passed the bill, it would send a strong message across the north in support of girls’ education and help speed up the passage of relevant legislation across other states in the region.

We began our campaign in August 2016 with a screening of “He Named Me Malala,” the documentary about Malala Yousafzai’s life, in partnership with the Centre for Girls’ Education and Hadiza Isma Elrufai, wife of Governor El-Rufai. Habiba Mohammed, co-director of CGE is also a Gulmakai Champion. Governor El-Rufai attended and participated in the post-screening conversation about the benefits of girls’ education. During the discussion, he pledged to send the Child Rights Act to the State House of Assembly for passage. Later that year, he fulfilled his promise.

With a Gulmakai Network grant from the Malala Fund, I continued our campaign and led my colleagues in a number of activities in order to get the bill passed by the State House. We worked with local radio and TV journalists in five states, including Kaduna, to inform citizens about the bill and why it is so important.

In February 2018, the State House of Assembly passed the Child Rights Act and forwarded it to Governor El-Rufai to sign into law. We had almost reached our goal. We weren’t going to take chances, so we stepped up our advocacy pressure. In a meeting with the heads of the European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria, my colleague, Segun Medupin asked the EU to encourage Governor El-Rufai to sign the Child Rights Act. The EU discussed the bill with the Governor, who promised to sign it into law.

We also asked Malala Fund CEO Farah Mohamed and Malala Fund co-founder Ziauddin Yousafzai to write a letter to Governor El-Rufai. They encouraged him to set an example to the remaining northern Nigeria states who have not domesticated the bill. Our efforts eventually paid off. On Friday, April 20, 2018, Governor El-Rufai passed the Child Rights Act in Nigeria.

This new law means that girls in Kaduna are legally entitled to free, basic education. In Nigeria, girls are more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom. This puts women at a greater disadvantage in terms of education, future employment and health. The passage of the Child Rights Act into law will not only mean that more girls will go to school, but will also positively impact their future careers and health.

This new law means that girls in Kaduna are legally entitled to free, basic education. In Nigeria, girls are more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom. This puts women at a greater disadvantage in terms of education, future employment and health. The passage of the Child Rights Act into law will not only mean that more girls will go to school, but will also positively impact their future careers and health.

Every day education activists like me take small but important steps to break down barriers preventing girls from completing their education. We still have a long way to go before we see every girl in school, but with the passage of the Child Rights Act in Kaduna, we have taken an important stride forward in the fight for girls’ education.


Local educators and activists understand challenges in their communities and are best placed to identify, innovate and advocate for policy and programmatic solutions.

Malala Fund believes in these remarkable champions and we’re investing in their work so that every girl can learn and lead without fear.