How Nigerian Catholic Nun is Fighting Early Marriage in “Yes to what empowers you, No to what enslaves you” Campaign

Sr. Bernadette Duru, spearheading the safeguarding of the girlchild in Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Shendam against early marriage.

Sr. Bernadette Duru is spearheading the safeguarding of the girlchild in Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Shendam against early marriage.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Duru shared how she has implemented a campaign dubbed, “Say yes to what empowers you, Say No to what enslaves you” in a workshop she organized on June 15 in view of addressing the root causes of early marriages in the Nigerian Catholic Diocese.

“I sampled seven schools, focusing on government schools where morale has decayed to zero. We selected five students from SS1, five from SS2, and ten from SS3 to participate in our workshops,” she shared during the Saturday, June 22 interview.

The Nigerian member of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena (OP) added, “With the support of local youths, I engaged school principals and students in discussions about the dangers of child marriage.”


“The students were very receptive,” she recalled the June 15 workshop that was part of her initiatives to equip young girls with the education and skills they need to build a better future for themselves.

The initiative included discussions, workshops, and group activities designed to educate the girls on the dangers of early marriage, cautioning them against dropping out of school.

The program also addressed the heartbreaking stories of girls forced into marriage at a young age, Sr. Duru said, and recalled that during the workshops, the student participants were divided into groups to discuss their experiences and the impacts of child marriage. 

“Some of them cried while sharing their stories, saying their parents forced them into early marriage due to poverty," the Administrator of Divine Mercy Catholic Hospital in Shandam Diocese recalled.

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She went on to recount the situation of the girlchild in Shendam Diocese that prompted her to act.  

“There are no factories here in Shendam; no industries; all we have here are hotels. Every morning, we see young girls coming out of these hotels. On the streets, we see 14 and 15-year-old girls carrying babies while pregnant again,” the Nigerian OP member told ACI Africa.


She added, “During vacation time, some girls do not come back to school because they have been married off.”

She emphasized the need to safeguard girls against cultural practices that subject them to early parental responsibilities, saying, “No child that has not celebrated her 18th birthday should go into marriage.”


“Education is the key to every future. Early marriage and prostitution enslave these young girls, robbing them of their potential,” Sr. Duru said.

During the June 15 workshop, she recalled in reference to participants, “we encouraged them to learn skills because not all of them will go to university. Many come from large families with limited resources; so we stress the importance of skill acquisition.”

“Young girls should wait, empower themselves with education and skills. Poverty today does not mean poverty forever. They must resist early marriage and strive for a brighter future,” the Nigerian Catholic Nun said.

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She called upon Nigerian legislatures to “not only pass bills against child marriage but also to create jobs so families can support themselves and prevent prostitution and school dropouts among young girls.”

Abah Anthony John contributed to the writing of this story

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