ACET Nigeria: Saying NO to child marriage

It is estimated that there are 22 million child brides in Nigeria. That’s more than double the population of London! 43% of Nigerian girls are married before they turn 18 and, in one northern state, it is much higher - 89% are married before they even turn 15. 

Child marriage is driven by cultural norms, such as marrying daughters off at an early age to ensure they are virgins to retain family honour, and gender inequality - the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. Girls are far from being equal partners within these marriages; they are forced to drop out of school; and often get pregnant when they are still children themselves.

Obioma and Ezichi

Child marriage is also exacerbated by illiteracy and poverty: child marriages  are arranged to lessen the financial burden on their family, or as an alliance to improve its economic status.

Additionally, and most alarmingly, the legal age of consent for sexual activity in Nigeria is just 11 years of age: the lowest age of consent in the world.

This gender inequality is a significant driver of Nigeria’s high HIV burden and low school attendance, and negatively impacts the country’s economic growth, as it interferes with girls’ education. These girls are literally being stopped from developing the skills they need to gain financial independence and fulfil their potential.

With your help, ACET Nigeria is working hard across 4 states, to challenge child marriage and gender inequality by training community leaders as educators and safeguarding leads, and by creating safe environments for children at their Children’s and Esteem Clubs to address these difficult topics through memorable, interactive activities, games and discussions. 

The children learn that girls and boys are equal, can do the same roles and should have the same opportunities. 

They are empowered to delay sex, keep themselves safe and have goals and aspirations.

By the time she was 15, Obioma was already married to a 60-year-old man. He was her teacher who’d raped her in her first year at secondary school. 

She stopped attending school and, now pregnant, was kicked out by her enraged family.

 Obioma had no choice but to move in with the teacher.


17 year old Ezichi attends an ACET Nigeria Esteem Club

"I learnt that any relationship that seeks to push me in to early sex and marriage is not a healthy relationship, I should choose people that respect me, are honest, faithful and that I can trust. 

I now have confidence to say no to people when they say things like suggesting sex to me."