Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
Zainab* became involved in the WELDD project through the organisations Zamfara Radio Television Service, and BAOBAB Zamfara State Outreach Team. A leading champion in the field of child marriage, she has experience reporting on women and child-related programmes.
“Because of this, I am often invited to participate in workshops and projects regarding these issues,” she says. “Currently, for example, my involvement with the project involves advocacy on child marriage and women’s rights, especially in Bungudu and its neighbouring domains.”
Zainab’s* most significant change story involves a tragic yet ultimately satisfying narrative. Abdullahi*, member of the Fulfulde tribe, is a small-scale farmer who frequently marries out young girls of his tribe to overage suitors. “Many children of this tribe are considered especially beautiful,” explains Zainab*. “They’re particularly sought after, which works well for Abdullahi*.”
Shortly into his practise, however, Abdullahi* seems to have swallowed his own bitter pill. His own daughter Mariam* has been victim to his practise, and shortly into her marriage, has already lost both her first and second children; not only that, she has also contracted VVF, divorced her husband, has moved back home, and through all this her father has had to bear the costs of each tragedy.
“I am happy to state,” continues Zainab*, “that through the various advocacy efforts and discussions we have had with him, he is now more than ready to let his remaining children reach an appropriate age before marrying them away. He has even allowed them access to Western education, and that too, up to any level!”
One of WELDD’s aims was to teach its participants to examine and challenge existing socio-cultural and religious norms, and question harmful social practises such as early marriage. “The workshop taught all of us of the need to effectively advocate and educate parents and community members about the benefit of delaying child marriages, and of keeping girls in school. We have approached them with the devastating consequences of child marriage—and used that to bring in other issues relating to women’s rights.”
Zainab* has found advocacy to be the main tool for success in such endeavours.
“As a matter of fact—especially given my experience and close observation on issues of spreading awareness—advocacy has always proven to be potent and pertinent tool for social change and awareness creation. Much as I believe in the role of professional advocates, I also strongly recommend the inclusion of more stakeholders in community mobilization. For instance, the problem of child marriage is mostly prevalent among the uneducated rural citizens, like local peasant farmers and other citizens living in remote rural areas. I would strongly suggest targeting their influential figures of the rural populace like religious or community leaders.”
Advocacy, according to Zainab*, should be a high-priority agenda, and the workshops should occur more frequently. The coverage should be higher, the reach wider. It’s an important message to spread, and with the right tools, it can infiltrate deeper, and gather its strength by more Abdullahi*-like converts.
*Names changed for the sake of privacy.