female students in class in Northern Nigeria.
Female students in class in Northern Nigeria.

On Sunday, Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai, called for urgent and massive investment in teenage girls for sustainable development, adding that Kaduna has a population of close to 900,000 girls ranging from 10 – 19 years of age.

In a statement personally signed to mark 2016 World Population Day on Monday, the governor said increased investment should be made in health and education for the benefit of the teenagers who are transitioning from childhood to early adulthood.

According to him, in many parts of Nigeria, particularly in the North, a girl who reaches puberty may be deemed by her family and community as ready for marriage, pregnancy and childbirth.

He added that, his administration has ensured that issues concerning teenage girls are adequately captured in the State Development Plan (SDP). El-Rufai noted that the present administration, under his leadership, upholds the universal right of all persons, including teenage girls, to education, health and freedom from violence. The governor however said the voiceless, marginalized and the vulnerable are heard and given the opportunity to be included in all decision-making processes that affect them.

Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna state
Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna state

Governor El-Rufai’s statement reads as follows:  

Kaduna State Government appreciates the importance of population issues as a key factor in sustainable development. Therefore, we are delighted to mark 2016. This is especially true of teenage girls who often face more challenges than their male counterparts.

“We welcome the focus on this important demographic. Teenagers are living the transition from childhood to early adulthood, and they require that increased investments be made in health and education for the benefit of the young.

Without education, in poor health, and with little or no control over her own body, her future can be derailed, and her potential may never be realized. The challenges and obstacles faced by a teenage girl tend to multiply if she is a member of an ethnic minority, lives in a village, or is from a poor household. But when a teenage girl has the power, the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to realize her full potential and become a positive force for change in her home, community and the Nation.

Policies and investments in education and health that empower teenage girls and create economic conditions that lead to jobs are particularly important in countries with large, emerging youth populations such as Nigeria, and particularly Kaduna State. Such countries stand to realize a demographic dividend, which has the potential to bolster and speed up economic growth.

A recent survey conducted in Kaduna State reveals that we have close to 900,000 girls in the 10-19 years age-band, a figure that is expected to reach 1,009,570 by 2020. Given a projection of 3.18% annual growth rate, Kaduna State will have 1,380,676 girls in this age-band by the year 2030. There is absolutely the urgent need to invest in this fast growing population to give our State economic balance and to provide better opportunities for sustainable development.

Every teenage girl has the right to a safe and successful transition into adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for her. The Kaduna State Government, together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other Development Partners working tirelessly in Kaduna State, are committed towards promoting and protecting these rights and supporting teenage girls to determine their own destinies,” he said.