Pauline Tallen: Child Rights Act domesticated in 34 Nigerian states

Mrs Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs,

The Child Rights Act 2003, which addresses child abuse, child labour, and forced marriage, among other issues in Nigeria, has now been domesticated by 34 of the country’s 36 states.

The Violence Against Persons Act (2015) is another piece of federal legislation that the states have adopted.

As of 2019, only 13 states had adopted the Acts, despite widespread alarm in government and child rights circles.

Mrs Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs, gave the update at the 59th Ministerial Media Briefing hosted by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Thursday. She noted that she had been actively involved in the advocacy to ensure that all states key into the initiative.

She stated to have met with key players and the speakers of state houses Assembly to urge them to pass the bill into law for their governors to sign.

The two remaining states, which Tallen did not identify, will likely pass the bills to domesticate the acts soon, she said.

She noted that there had been an increase from nine states when she took office to thirty-four passing VAPP legislation and twelve passing the Child Rights Act.

“With aggressive advocacy across all 36 states, I went round and appealed to them. I often go into the House of Assembly to address the state House of Assembly with the speaker’s permission. I did that in Oyo. I remained there until they passed it. The law was passed in my presence in Oyo states.

“We’ve made progress on the domestication of Child Rights Acts, 2003. CRA, when I assumed office, we had only 12 states that domesticated it. And without the Child Rights Act, we cannot achieve the education of the girl child.

“With the Act, the girl child will be in school admitted, retained up to completion, completion up to Senior secondary school. That is the minimum education we are advocating for the girl child. Because if a girl can remain in school up to senior secondary school, we are sure she has crossed the problem of early marriage.

“She should be about 17-18. And that should be the minimum age for a girl to get married. She should get married from 18 and above.

“But we’re not saying she should stop at the Senior Secondary School. We want a girl; if she’s educated and ready to go to school, she should be given the opportunity, like the boys, up to a doctorate level.

“We go to the traditional rulers, we go to community leaders, we go to religious leaders, we go to the state assemblies,” she asserted. 

She praised First Lady Aisha Buhari and the Forum of First Ladies for supporting President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to have all states pass domestic versions of the acts.

The Minister of Women’s Affairs declared that a 16-day campaign would “paint Nigeria orange” and provide support for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

She clarified: “The ministry has only one parastatal, the National Center for Women Development. It also ensures the elimination of gender-based violence. And tomorrow (Friday) is the day we will kick off the 16-day activism.

“We know that gender-based violence is on the increase every day. There is no day I don’t receive reports of one form of gender-based violence or the other. Women are so traumatised. We need the voice of men to join us in this fight. And that’s why the UN system instituted the He-for-She, and we’ve decorated Mr President and the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker, and key officers that believe in working with women, that without women, we can’t get it right.”

Tallen said that the commissioning of a Safe Space in Kurudu, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as part of the 16 Days of Activism was significant, and she urged all states in the federation to establish similar ones.

The purpose of the 16 Days of Activism, she says, is to “paint Nigeria orange” and give people hope who have been affected by gender-based violence.

It was announced that the UN/EU Spotlight initiative, in collaboration with UNDP and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, had launched a National Situation Room and Data Dashboard to combat violence against women and girls in Nigeria.

She went on to say that as of the 22nd of November 2023, the dashboard contained information on 11,053 incidents of GBV, 401 deaths, 592 closed cases, 3,507 open cases, and 33 convicted perpetrators, noting that this has led to an increase in the quality and accessibility of GBV data in the country.

“That’s why we’re calling on the justice system to act fast on cases of gender-based violence. Justice delayed is justice denied,” she added.

Relating to the case of the Chibok schoolgirls who were rescued in 2016, she said that the ministry had been given the task of rehabilitating them for proper reintegration into society, coordinating strategic interventions aimed at bringing succour to the families of the girls, and effectively supporting programmes aimed at reintegrating them.

According to her, as of the 2017–2019 academic year, 106 students had been accepted into the American University’s specialised Foundation programmes.

After the 2020/21 academic session, the number of female students dropped to 89 due to the departure of eight students for various reasons.

A further decrease to 79 was seen for the 2021–2022 academic year due to students choosing to leave to start families.

“As of today, all 79 girls have been enrolled as undergraduates at the American University,” she said.

Tallen revealed that monetary aid and supplies such as toiletries, beverages, food, and clothing were distributed to the families of all 276 people who had died from COVID-19.

She stated: “On one of the visits, the Minister provided the girls with personal provisions, hygiene products, and a phone handset.

“The same gesture was extended to Leah Sharibu’s parents in Dapchi, Yobe.

“Based on the report of the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs’ visit to the Chibok community, the Federal Government of Nigeria, working with the Borno State Government, has since renovated and equipped the affected Chibok Secondary School.

“The renamed Government Secondary School has since been commissioned by Dame Pauline K. Tallen, OFR, KSG, in 2021 with the Executive Governor and other dignitaries in Borno State.”