Participants have vowed to redouble efforts to eliminating child marriage by 2030 as well as employ focused interventions and measures to keep girl children in school up to the age of 18.
The meeting, that drew hundreds of delegates representing African governments, ambassadors from across the globe, developmental partners as well as civil society organisations, ended last Friday with a highly ambitious outcome statement to eradicate the prevalence of child brides.
The statement which was read by South African First Lady Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, says child marriage negatively impacts on women and girls’ personal development, future opportunities, education and wellbeing. She added the practice had detrimental consequences for families, communities and nations at large.
“Recognising that the elimination of child marriage is a prerequisite for the realisation of the aspirations of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” said Zuma.
“We participants at the first African Girls’ Summit hereby commit to facilitate a social movement in our countries at local, regional and national levels with the participation of the youth, traditional and religious leaders, community leaders, government and CSO partners, parents and elders on ending child marriage,” said Zuma. Zuma urged all partners to collaborate towards the swift implementation of the Common African Position on Ending Child Marriage in Africa – formally adopted by the AU members in June.
United Nations PopulationFUND (UNFPA) regional director, Julitta Onabanjo called on Africa to further progress on the bold and far-reaching path that was set in 2013 when the AU launched the Campaign to End Child Marriage. “We all share with our donors a common vision, commitment and an urgency
to eliminate child marriage in a generation,” she said.
According to Onabanjo, the summit underscored that a safe and successful passage from adolescence into adulthood is the right of every young person, unfortunately that right has not been fulfilled particularly for adolescent girls.
“It is totally not acceptable that one in threeGIRLS in low and middle income countries are married before they are 18, and one in nine by age 15. In the course of this year alone, about 14.2 million girls will become child brides,” she said. Of the 41 countries with a child marriage prevalence rate of 30 percent or more, 30 are in Africa and all were represented at the summit.
“Nine out of 10 teen births occur in the context of child marriage. These teen pregnancies, especially first time pregnancies are associated with highRATES of maternal mortality due to amongst other causes, obstructed labour and pregnancy induced hypertension as well as morbidity,” Onabanjo said.
Despite the revived commitment, a UNICEF report released last week presents a gloomy picture.
It forecasts that if growth rates are not reduced, the number of child brides in Africa could more than double in three decades. Titled ‘A Profile Of Child Marriage In Africa’ the report found that while rates of child marriage in otherREGIONS were dropping, Africa’s reduction was very slow. In addition to a rising population, the number of child brides would rise to a potential 310 million by 2050, as opposed to an estimated 125 million today.
An estimated 700 million girls and women who were married before their 18th birthday are alive today; 17 percent of them live in Africa.