Nigerian Girls Sold To Offset Debt Speak On Their Inability To Vote
The 9th of March 2019 is a day with staggering importance in the landscape of Nigeria’s democratic journey. Gubernatorial candidates across the federation face the electoral masses for a defining assessment of their candidacy. Who will emerge as the lead executive for his state?
9th of March is also the day after the globally celebrated International Women’s Day, where men and women from all over the world project the lofty ideals of the womanhood and the society that rightly values her. Today brings us to the table of reason and retrospect. In the light of today, how much of our women have indeed liberated to exercise one of their most civic duties in deciding who it is that will lead them for the next four years. Do we celebrate women out of a sense of obligation or are they an integral part of the critical deciding mass?
On the 4th of January 2019, I travelled out of Lagos to document the experiences of the young women seized as tools in the money marriage culture in Obanliku area of Cross River State. I had been hearing about this practice where teenage girls are sold into marriage for a meagre sum to offset generational debt. My journey there was an attempt to chronicle this hideous practice and perhaps raise an alarm that hopefully will reverberate in the corridors of powers where lasting change can indeed be enforced.
I got to speak to four girls who are currently “victims” of money marriage and one survivor, thanks to the tireless efforts of a missionary. From conversing with them, I was exposed to how deep the issues of social injustice, sexual and domestic abuse, rights deprivation, girl child education and empowerment, among others had eaten into the core fabric of this sub-urban settlement. Because of their status as money women, they do not have the right to go to school. In fact, the sheer impetus of such an attempt is called out by their husbands often referred to as their owners.
In the face of the imminent elections, it interested me to ask them about their participation… their responses broke my heart in many ways. Watch the video below to hear what they had to say about their participation in the elections
Apart from being constantly beaten to within an inch of their lives by their husbands or his relatives at the slightest provocation, several money wives are also deprived of their civic responsibilities. This is a painful reality for a country like ours casually referred to as the Giant of Africa. No country can truly flourish without the participation of its women in civic duties as defining as the elections. Money women highlight a problem that is existent in one rural part of Nigerian and I can say by inference that in many other rural communities in Nigeria, there are cultural practices of this kind that leaves our women bereft of rights.
As we are still in celebration of the International Day of Women, this is a call that we as a society need to do some soul searching and carefully consider the theme of this year’s theme #BalanceforBetter. Women everywhere are breaking barriers, pushing boundaries and making forays into places no one thought possible a few decades ago. Two of the most powerful countries in the world are currently headed by women. With more support, even more, can be achieved.
So this is a cry to the good people of Nigeria to continue to work to see that our society and the world become more equitable. Everyone has the right to VOTE, to EDUCATION, to LIVE.