Source: African Union Commission (AUC) |

First African girls’ summit on ending child marriage in Africa

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, November 23, 2015/APO (African Press Organization)/ --

INVITATION TO REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MEDIA

What:         First African Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage in Africa

When:         26 – 27 November 2015

The Summit will be preceded by a Youth Pre-Summit that will take place from 24th to 25th November 2015 during which a Youth Pavilion will be set up as a space for youth to interact during the Summit.

Who:         The Summit is organized by the Department of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC) in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Zambia

Where:           The event will hold at the New Government Complex Conference Centre, Lusaka, Zambia.

Objectives:   The main objective of First African Girls’ Summit is to share experiences and good practices as well as challenges on ending child marriages at country, regional and international levels, particularly with countries that have already launched the AUC Campaign on ending Girls’ Child Marriage.

                          The Summit will also secure and/or renew commitments from stakeholders notably governments, to invest more on ending child marriage in their respective countries. It will also be a forum to discuss the successes and challenges faced by community leaders, traditional, religious leaders, girls affected by child marriage as well as youths advocating against child marriage.

Participants: The First African Girls’ Summit will be attended by Member States- Ministers dealing with social development issues and children affairs, Ministers of Finance, Religious and Community Leaders, youth advocates particularly women and girls affected by child marriage; Development Partners, UN Agencies, Bilateral and Multi-lateral Agencies and representatives from Civil Society Organisations ( CSOs).

Expected outcomes:  The Summit is expected to:

Enhanced continental awareness on the consequences of child marriage;
It will also accelerate the need to end child marriage in Africa.

Background:

Child marriage is a human rights violation that robs girls of their rights to health, to live in security, and to choose if, when and whom to marry. It is a harmful practice, which severely affects the rights of a child and further deprives the child from attaining other aspirations like education.

Every year, about 14 million adolescent and teen girls are married, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. Although the proportion of child brides has generally decreased over the last 30 years, in some regions child marriage remains common, even among the youngest generations, particularly in rural areas and among the poorest.  Among young women worldwide aged 20-24, around 1 in 3 (or 70 million) was married as children and around 1 in 9 (or 23 million) entered into marriage or union before they reached age 15. The largest numbers of child brides are concentrated in Africa. In Africa, the highest prevalence of child marriage (Child marriage prevalence is defined as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before age 18) is dominant in at least 19 countries.

Despite most African countries setting the legal age for marriage at 18 years, laws are rarely enforced since the practice of marrying young children is upheld by tradition and social norms. Child marriage is deeply rooted in gender inequality (gender based violence and gender discrimination), poverty, tradition and culture. The practice is most common in rural areas, where prospects for girls can be limited. In many cases, parents arrange these marriages and young girls have no choice. Consequently, some societies believe that early marriage will protect young girls from sexual attacks and violence and see it as a way to insure that, their daughters will not become pregnant out of wedlock and bring dishonour to the family. In effect, the paradox is that parents and society are often wrong. 

Girls and women have the right to live free from violence and discrimination and achieve their potential but are prevented due to being forced into child marriage and this harmful practice has devastating effects on the girl-child and the society, one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity for girls age 15 to 19 is pregnancy and childbirth. 

As we look at the developmental impact of child marriage on the community and Africa, we should bear in mind that, it is a serious violation of human rights. Child marriage as a human rights violation has been included in a number of legal instruments at the continental and international levels. The African Union (AU) specifically promotes policies related to young peoples’ rights and is mandated by its various legal instruments ( more recently, 5th Strategic Priority of AU’s Strategic Plan 2014 –2017 as well as AU’s Agenda 2063) with a bearing on the rights of children and youth to promote common standards by supporting adaptation and implementation of the instruments at regional and national level and monitoring of implementation progress by Member States and ensuring accountability.

In an effort to provide a bright future for millions of women and girls, the AU together with a range of partners launched the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa on 29 May 2014. The campaign is focused  on accelerating change across the continent by encouraging African governments to develop strategies to raise awareness of and address the harmful impact of child marriage as well as expediting and invigorating the movement to end child marriage by: (i) supporting policy action in the protection and promotion of human rights, especially with a view to addressing violence against girls and women and promoting gender equitable social norms (ii) mobilizing continental awareness of and engagement to end child marriage and (iii) removing barriers and bottlenecks to law enforcement.

Media representatives are invited to cover Africa’s Girl Summit on 26 and 27 November 2015 as well as the Pre-Summit Youth event on 24th and 25th November 2015 in Lusaka.

Follow the conversation online using our twitter handle @OurGirlsAU and our hashtag #AGS2015 and #EndChildMarriageNow to spread the word.

Distributed by APO on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).