Child Protection

Children are at great risk of all forms of violence in Niger and need urgent protection.

Child protection
UNICEF Niger/Tremeau

Challenges

All girls and boys have the right to a childhood where they can play, rest and be protected from harm, abuse and exploitation. But for thousands of children in Niger, childhood is cut short by marriage.

UNICEF estimates that around three in four young girls were married before the age of 18, the highest in the region.

For too many children, the places where they should feel safe — at home, at school, in their communities — are the first and most frequent sites of violence, abuse and exploitation. Eight out of 10 children are disciplined harshly at home; domestic violence is widespread.

Birth registration, which is key to protecting children from conscription in armed forces, child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation, reaches only six in 10 children. Children living in urban areas have greater access to birth registration (92 per cent of birth are registered) compared to rural areas (60 per cent of births).

“I was married when I was 15. It was a forced marriage, and I suffered a lot. I ran. I met people on the road who brought me back to my parents. When I left [my husband’s] home I was pregnant.”

17-year-old Barira*, ran away from home. It was not the home she had grown up in with her parents. It was the home she shared with her husband.

*Names have been changed.

Solutions

UNICEF works across sectors to support strategies to tackle child marriage. For example, we support the development of laws, policies and works which make enforcing child marriage prohibition laws more feasible. The organization also works with communities to confront the social norms that allow child marriage to continue.

Violence, abuse, and exploitation are daily realities for children and women in Niger. To be protected from harm and danger, children need to benefit from a comprehensive child protection system that addresses the full spectrum of risks they face.

In Niger, UNICEF is working with the Government of Niger, civil society organizations, communities and other partners to strengthen all components of the child protection system.

At the national level, work continues aligning laws, policies, plans, budgets and information systems to international norms and treaties, and ensuring that they are implemented.

Child protection services are still limited and fragmented in Niger. However, with UNICEF support, prevention and response services are being expanded and their quality improved.

Children caught in emergencies are given psychosocial support, family tracing and alternative care while children associated with Boko Haram who have been released are cared for in a transit and orientation centre supported by UNICEF and partners.

The child justice system is also being reformed so that children and adolescents have access to services that guarantee their protection and the respect of their rights, in compliance with international norms.

To improve birth registration in the country, as well as the registration of other vital events such as deaths and marriages, UNICEF and the European Union are supporting the Government to reform the Nigerian civil registration system.

To change social norms and practices that violate children’s rights, UNICEF is helping to mobilize communities to declare an end to harmful practices against women and children.

Resources