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The African Woman Foundation

Campaign against Child Marriage

Child marriage — formally or informally — is a marriage or similar union that is entered into by a child or youth, who is below a specific age, usually 18. Child marriage is a prevalent societal problem in Africa, which violates the rights of the African girl child and has widespread, long-term consequences, both for the child bride and even the groom.

Child marriage, writes World Bank, will cost countries in Africa tens of billions of dollars that will be in terms of lost earnings as well as human capital. Each year, over 3 million (or one-third of) girls in the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) region enter into marriage before they clock 18.

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Today, SSA has the highest prevalence of child marriage incidence globally. The African child bride is much more likely to drop out of school and could complete fewer years of education in comparison with her mates that get married at later years.

Also, she is more likely to bear children at a young age — affecting her health, in addition to the education and health of her children.

Though several countries in Africa have realized gender parity in primary education, the same assertion cannot be made at the secondary level as girls lag behind boys. In SSA, seven out of ten girls complete primary education; sadly, only four out of ten are able to complete lower secondary school.

Women that have acquired a secondary education, on average, are more likely to work and will earn twice as much as those that have no education. Measuring the impact of child marriage on African girls’ education,World Bank says that the problem is costing the continent $63 billion in lost earnings, in human capital wealth.

A range of factors promote and reinforce child marriage — according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). These include poverty and economic survival strategies; tradition and culture; gender inequality; insecurity (especially during famine, war, or epidemics); sealing land/property deals or settling disputes; control over sexuality; and protecting family honor. Another factor is family ties, where marriage is used to consolidate powerful relations between families, thus resulting in commodification of African girls.

Rapid child population growth in African countries has made it increasingly urgent that countries and non-governmental organizations in Africa expedite their efforts to tackle the menace of child marriage. Putting an end to child marriage will allow millions of adolescent girls in Africa to realize their full potential and also improve their maternal and child health.

Against this backdrop, the African Women Foundation is committed to the campaign to abolish child marriage in Africa. To realize this objective, we are working with the following integrated strategies:

  • Promoting community dialogue & encouraging social mobilization to ensure households show positive attitudes & behaviors towards investing in and supporting adolescent African girls.
  • Supporting adolescent girls of African descent, who are at risk of — or who are affected by — child marriage to remain in their schools through the lower secondary cycle and develop life skills, which will allow them to make choices, to exercise their fundamental rights.
  • Advocating education, health, and other relevant systems that seek to deliver quality, cost-effective services, which cater to the needs of adolescent African girls.
  • Supporting the creation, implementation, and enforcement of national laws, policy frameworks & mechanisms that promote and safeguard adolescent African girls’ rights.
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