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.