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Madina, 15-year-old who fights for children’s rights

Madina Abdulkadir,15, is a member representing Dikwa at Borno Children’s Parliament and Girls’ Champion for Save the Children, Nigeria. In this interview with Daily Trust…

Madina Abdulkadir,15, is a member representing Dikwa at Borno Children’s Parliament and Girls’ Champion for Save the Children, Nigeria. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, she said she had spoken to many world leaders on the need for quality education for the girl-child, explaining that she was motivated by the death of her friend, who was forced into marriage at the age of 10 while in primary school.

Daily Trust: Can you tell us about your education background?

 Madina Abdulkadir: I attended Gwange (1) Primary School and Gwange Junior Secondary School. I was able to get a scholarship to Maiduguri Innovation School, where I obtained my West African School Certificate (WASC) in 2020. I am a student of Remedial Science at the University of Maiduguri. I was born on August 6, 2006.

DT: Gwange used to be a deadly area; did you experience any attack there? 

Madina: Yes. It happened in my school. There was a day armed men attacked our school, Grange (1) Primary School in the morning. They threw a bomb which exploded not too far from me. There was confusion in the whole area and everyone was running; I ran as fast as I could. I ran into a woman who saved and kept me until there was calm. When she asked where my house was and I told her and she took me to my parents. All my family members were happy to see me back home because they thought I had died. I was happy that I could return home safely. I had to stay indoors for over a week. Then my school was burnt down and I had to stay at home for almost a year. That, however, helped to prepare me for this struggle.

DT: How did you become a member of the Borno Children’s Parliament?

 Madina: It was an election process. The children of Dikwa chose me to be their representative. After that, I was asked to make various presentations to see my capability before an audience. Afterwards I was sworn in by members of the state House of Assembly.

DT: What informed your decision to start campaigning for girls’ rights? 

Madina: First, I would like to share my experience as a child with my friend, who was married off. We attended the same primary school, and she had the zeal and passion to be educated. We always studied and did other school-related activities together. Unfortunately, her parents were uneducated, so they never had the intention of enrolling her in school; luckily, she just found herself in school. We were of the same age, 10, while we were in primary school. When we went on vacation after our common entrance examination, her parents married her off.

She never had the intention of getting married at such an early age. She knew nothing about the effects; her parents were also ignorant of it. 

When she got married, she found it very difficult to cope with domestic chores because she didn’t have any experience of being a wife. 

She used to call me and say she would wake up with trauma and sleep the same way. After some years she got pregnant and found it very hard to cope because she didn’t have any experience. A child needs full care and attention. When she was due for delivery she couldn’t give birth and the doctor said she had to go through a caesarean section.  She lost her life in the process. It has left a scar on me. How can a child take care of another child? That’s why we are in all kinds of problems.

This indeed motivated me to rise and start advocating the rights of girls because this is one of the most harmful practices affecting us in our society.

Girls are more vulnerable. When you look at the percentage of out-of-school children, you discover that about 60 per cent are girls. And some poor parents who have girl-children use them as sources of increasing their incomes. At a minor age her parents send her to hawk or become a domestic helper, which exposes her to different sorts of harmful practices, such as rape, child trafficking, child abuse, sexual and physical harassment. By the time she grows up a little bit, and without getting quality education, her parents marry her off to an uneducated man or a man who has been proposing to marry her since she was born. After getting married she gets exposed to domestic violence and health problems, such as Vesicovaginal Fistul (VVF). And most times, the husband shuns her and even divorces her because of her health condition. And that ruins her life.

It is sad that there are millions of girls who are suffering due to child marriage, but I am happy representing millions of those girls who cannot speak for themselves, millions who are out of school, and millions who are begging on the streets, millions who are sleeping on the streets, internally displaced girls and children, children living with disability.

Some of my neighbours, friends and children living in various communities are still not able to access education because of the impact of insecurity, poverty and cultural norms. As I speak now, millions of girls have not had my experience as an advocate, so I would like to use this opportunity to speak on their behalf.

A lot still need to be done. It is painful to see what is happening in Borno State, the North and Nigeria in general.

I have been involved in various advocacy activities, where I draw the attention of children, parents, traditional rulers and the government to always take girl-child education as a priority because there is no greater pillar of stability than a strong, free and educated girl-child.

Girls’ education has been specifically challenged by various barriers, such as early and forced marriage, teenage or early pregnancy, gender-based violence, and poverty, which as a result deny them access to quality education.

We have a brighter future for girls in Nigeria. I want to see every Nigerian girl-child have access to quality education in a safe and conducive environment. I want to see every Nigerian girl-child speak her rights and say no to early marriage and another form of harmful practices. I want to see every Nigerian girl-child explore and have access to a safe digital literacy. And I believe that with you all supporting and investing in us, we will have a brighter future.

DT: What means do you use to get your message across to your audience?

Madina: Aside from my usual activities as a member of the Children’s Parliament, I create awareness on the barriers children face in accessing education by enlightening my peers and sensitising the public through a weekly radio programme on Dandalkura International Radio, Maiduguri.

I have also spoken to world leaders on various virtual platforms, where I told them to be committed to supporting girl-child education in Nigeria. I also asked them to help various countries create more child-led platforms so that they could get to hear directly from the affected children. I also asked them to continue working hand-in-hand with child-friendly organisations so that they can create children-led campaigns to end all forms of violence against children. I charged them to create an enabling environment for education for out-of-school children and create more child-friendly spaces for them to have a better life. 

DT: How many world leaders have you interacted with so far?

I have interacted with various world leaders across the globe on various virtual meeting platforms: US Parliament; the chief executive officer of the Save the Children, United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa; prime minister, Royal Government of Cambodia; president of Rescue International; president of Zambia; Minister of International Development, Norway; Director of Policy and Planning, Ministry of Education, Somalia; United Kingdom’s minister of Safe Guarding.

Others are the Countess of Wessex, Kenya National Parliament, Sultan of Sokoto, Nigerian ministers of Foreign Affairs, Education, Health and Woman Affairs, etc.

DT: What are your challenges as an advocate of the emancipation of the girl-child?

Madina: Part of the challenges I face are sometimes the unfulfilling promises from government agencies in Nigeria. But I won’t be discouraged. I will keep advocating girls’ rights until we get access to quality education for all the children in Nigeria. Most importantly, I urge governments at all levels to work on mechanisms to stop the war on children and ensure that they are safe, even during conflicts.