Statement to the African Union 24TH Summit, January 2015
African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage
General Secretary/World YWCA
Presented at the Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs
“Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda”
22 January, 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Thank you Mme Chair for according me this opportunity to address the meeting, in my capacity as African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage.
I recognise the participation of young women and girls in this summit who have made specific recommendations on health, education, economic empowerment, media and technology, and immigration policies/including visa restrictions. I will be transmitting their detailed report for to you for information and consideration of their recommendations.
I commend Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma for her unwavering and practical commitment to young women and girls, as exemplified by launching the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage ~ in response to a painful reality.
Every year, about 15 million adolescent and teen girls are married around the world, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of girls are married by age 18: that is two in every five girls. There are 41 countries world-wide with a child marriage prevalence rate of 30% or more, and of these 41 countries, 30 are from Africa1. If we don’t act now, the number of girls married as children will double by 2050 and Africa will become the region with the highest number of child brides in the world.
Child marriage is a development, human rights and safety issue for girls. I fully support the statements today by SADC, Malawi, Zimbabwe; Zambia, Uganda, Togo, Ghana, and other members’ states; and OAFLA who have made clear recommendations on this issue in this meeting. Agenda 2063 must have meaning to these girls lives today.
I therefore this singular recommendation: adopt a specific Commitment to ending child early and forced marriage; and specifically:
I therefore recommend that the African Union adopts:
- Development and adopt an African Common Position and special protocol to end child marriage.
- Child Marriage must be included as a key indicator for monitoring agenda 2063 and data tracked through community monitoring as well as national statistical data such as census and demographic health surveys. Ending child marriage will address a range of issues of human rights of the girl child including education, health, economic empowerment, health including comprehensive, integrated and quality sexual and reproductive health information, education and services and as well abuse of culture.
The African Union should encourage States to:
- Develop and implement National Action Plans to end child marriage which should include ensuring that legislation specifically outlaws child marriage, empowerment of girls, prosecution of perpetrators, and promotion of cultural transformation among other measures.
- Ratify; domesticate and implement the Maputo Plan of Action on Women’s Rights and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
I recognise and reach out to various partners including community groups, civil society and donors partners to continue to support this effort. We can end child marriage in a single generation.
The countries are: Zimbabwe 31%; Senegal 33%; Congo 33%; Gabon 33%; Sudan 34%; Sao Tome & Principe 34%; Benin 34%; Cote d’Ivoire 34%; Mauritania 35%; Gambia 36%; Cameroun 36%; Tanzania 37; Liberia 38%; Nigeria 39%; DRC 39%; Ethiopia 41%; Zambia 42%; Somalia 45%; Uganda 46%; Eritrea 47%; Burkina Faso 48%; Sierra Leone 48%; Madagascar 48%; Malawi 50%; Mozambique 52%; Mali 55%; Central African Republic 61%; Guinea 63%; Chad 72%; and Niger 75%. Source: UNFPA database using household surveys (DHS and MICS) completed during the period 2000-2011