16 June 2015: Youth groups across Africa are marking the Day of the African Child by meeting with parliamentarians to discuss their government's efforts to put an end to child marriage.
Plan International is supporting youth groups in Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Mali and other countries at the events.
Every year, an estimated 15 million girls aged under 18 are married worldwide with little or no say in the matter. In parts of Africa child marriage is prevalent with rates as high as 75% in Niger, 63% in Guinea and 55% in Mali.
Today's Day of the African Child celebrations call on African governments, citizens and parents to ensure that all forms of child marriages in Africa are brought to an end and 18 years established as the age of marriage.
Targeting child marriage
In recent years, efforts to end child marriage have gained considerable momentum – leading to the adoption by the UN Assembly of a resolution to end the practice; the launch of a pan-African campaign against child marriage by the African Union and the inclusion of child marriage as a target under the new Sustainable Development Goals.
“Having child marriage as a target in the Post-2015 framework is a recognition that having failed to include the issue in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had hampered their full realisation. We will continue our efforts to ensure that this target is maintained as the international community agrees to the new goals in September 2015,” says Adama Coulibaly, West Africa Regional Director of Plan International.
Inequality and discrimination
The root causes and continuation of child and forced marriages are found in inequality and discrimination based on widespread stereotypes about the role of women and girls in the family and society.
Child brides are often disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. They have little access to education and economic opportunities and face early and frequent pregnancies which negatively affect their physical and psychological well-being.
"During each of my pregnancies, I fell ill and could not even stand. But my mother-in-law wasn’t moved by this. She used to tell me that I’m lazy. I’m suffering a lot. I want to end the marriage. It’s a nightmare for me", says Djeba, 20, from Segou in Mali, who was married at 14.
The Day of the African Child commemorates the 1976 protest in which hundreds of black South African boys and girls were shot when they took to the streets to protest at their living and educational conditions.