Understanding the Practice of Girl Marriage in Northern Nigeria from the Perspectives of Key Decision-Makers

  • Tolulope Eboka

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Research on the practice of girl marriage has been extensive with studies recommending local strategies that are peculiar to the countries involved. According to this extensive body of research the continued practice of girl marriage is concerning given the harms associated with it at community or societal level, especially for girls and women. While the perspectives of the people involved in girl marriage decisions are however relevant for these local strategies, very few studies have focused on these decision makers (parents and community leaders) within a cultural context.

This gap in the research is addressed in the current study, which presents the perspectives of 25 community leaders and parents (21 men and four women) who are involved in girl marriage decisions, and five policy stakeholders whose roles include the enforcement of Nigeria’s 2003 Child Rights’ Act. In-depth interviews and observations were used to collect data in answer to the research question - how do the key decision makers explain the practice of girl marriage? Denzin’s (1989; 2001) construction of Interpretive Interactionism was employed as a framework for analysing and understanding the socio-cultural contexts within the study.

While the findings of the present study suggest that strong cultural explanations underpin the continuity of girl marriage practices in Northern Nigeria, it also argues that this practice is strengthened by patriarchal power structures and the male exercise of control over the lives of women. This study suggests that the tendency to generalise about the practice of girl marriage in developing countries misses the relevance of individual country’s differences in historical backgrounds, political, legal, socio-economic and cultural context – all of which interact in complex ways to influence the age at first marriage in different countries. These findings have implications for the Nigerian constitution and policy stakeholders in terms of the need to institutionalise an approach which will address the issue of girl marriage in Northern Nigeria with the consciousness of the people involved in these marriage decisions.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSuzanne McDonald-Walker (Supervisor), Judith Sixsmith (Supervisor) & Faith Tucker (Supervisor)

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