About the Author

A Nigerian-American who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States, Onyinye is returning to her native Nigeria to examine the urgent issue of girls health, education, early marriage and, most of all, girls empowerment. Onyinye holds a Masters of Public Health degree from University of Washington-Seattle, as well as graduate-level certificates in the Global Health of Women, Adolescents and Children, and in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research. Describing the impetus for her project, Onyinye points out that, “Niger is presently ranked as the country with the highest percentage of child brides in the world with 76% of girls married before age 18. Nigeria holds the number 14 position with 43% of girls married before age 18. As a trained global health practitioner and advocate for adolescent sexual and reproductive health, I understand the power in a girl’s voice and the dangers associated with silencing that voice. During my ICWA Fellowship I intend to work with young people and their communities to understand the factors that propel child marriage and hinder girls education. My aim is to identify culturally-sensitive ways to address these critical problems.” In addition to her academic credentials, she brings field experience in project design and implementation, monitoring and evaluation, maternal and child nutrition and adolescent sexual and reproductive health; Onyinye has worked in both urban and rural/remote locations in Africa and in the US. An emerging young leader, Onyinye has been recognized by the Clinton Global Foundation as a Commitment Maker, was awarded a prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship as well as a Global Opportunities Health Fellowship. Onyinye’s ICWA Fellowship began in August 2016 and will continue until August 2018.

A Medical Outreach on Children’s Day

Millions of children live in poverty in Nigeria;lacking access to clean water, food, health care services, and education. Two and a half million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, “defined by a very low weight for height (below -3z scores of the median WHO growth standards), by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional oedema.” In Nigeria, 430,000 children live with HIV/AIDS.1  In April, I attended a wedding reception where I saw masses of children scramble for leftover food from the guests’ plates. It was an awful sight, to witness and a reminder of the plight of Nigeria’s children. Where are their parents? Why do they look so unkempt? When was their last meal? These were all questions that ran across through my mind as I reflected on their pitiful condition.

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Forced into Marriage at 17, Now Fighting for Divorce: A Tale of a Child Bride in Nigeria

In developing countries, one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under age 15. – [1]

In Africa, Nigeria is expected to have the largest absolute number of child brides. The country has seen a decline in child marriage of about 1 percent per year over the past three decades. At this pace, the total number of child brides is expected to double by 2050. – UNICEF[2]

“I was a slave in my husband’s house,” said 17-year-old Rahma. “My pregnancy had complications and my husband sent me back to my parents when I was diagnosed with fistula,” added 19-year-old Fatima. As I listened to these girls share their experiences as child brides, I struggled to keep the at bay as I wondered why on earth anyone would want to deprive these girls of their childhood and livelihoods. Yet, many men (often much older) in countries like Nigeria choose to marry teenage girls, some pre-teens. Forty-three (43) percent of Nigerian girls are given in marriage before the age of 18,;17% are married before their 15th birthday.[3] As Africa’s largest growing population with over 180 million residents, it is anticipated that Nigeria will have the largest absolute number of child brides by 2050.1 In response to this alarming news, the Nigerian government in November 2016 launched a campaign with a pledge to end child marriage by the year 2030. In line with the African Union’s resolution to eliminate the practice in the African continent; Nigeria joins 15 other African countries that have made this a national commitment. Despite this, achieving an end to child marriage is a long way ahead.

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BLOG: International Women’s Day 2017: Taking Bold Steps for Change

Messages and Reactions From Nigeria On March 8, the world celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD), a day set aside to acknowledge the contributions women make in society and highlight the challenges women continue to face. This year, the United Nation’s theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” urged action to promote

Leading the Way: Reflections on Women’s Leadership in Nigeria

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”                                                                  

Blog: Nigera Says NO to Child Marriage

Last week, I attended what was possibly the most important high-level meeting for me as an ICWA Fellow in Nigeria. The Federal Government of Nigeria, on Tuesday, November 29, committed to end a deeply-rooted cultural and social menace in the country — child marriage. “Our stand is clear. No child marriage,” declared the Vice-President, Prof.

Thanksgiving in Nigeria

Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Nigeria. Though, many churches across the country celebrate Thanksgiving Sundays – special days when people dress up in their best and most colorful outfits and bring exceptional thanksgiving offerings (money) to church. So, what did I do on November 24? Thanks to my globally-minded friends, I was able to commemorate

Lagos Chronicles

Lagos Chronicles My 12-day trip to Lagos was overwhelming; mostly because Lagos is an overwhelming city.  With over 20 million inhabitants, it is hard not to feel choked whenever you are in Lagos. I stayed on the Mainland of Lagos; this is where you experience the real city in contrast to the Island area of Lagos (an area designed to accommodate wealthy

International Day of the Girl Child

International Day of the Girl Child October 11, 2016   Every year since 2012, October 11 has been set aside to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”[1] The day calls global attention to the need to address these challenges while promoting girls’ empowerment and the advancement of their human rights.

For Girls’ Empowerment: What’s Education Got to Do With It?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela ABUJA, Nigeria – “Are you sure you know where you are coming to?” asked my cousin in-law as we approached the northwestern state of Kaduna after a two hour road trip from Abuja. He was dropping me off at a bus stop on his way to Kano for a