The African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage: What next? Girls Not Brides members from across Africa speak as one

Participants of African Union's Campaign evaluation workshop, October 2016. | Photo credit: Yoka Photography | V and Victors

Halfway through its four-year Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa, which was launched in 2014, the African Union (AU) Commission is carrying out an assessment to take stock of progress made, learn from challenges faced, and identify priorities for the next two years. This is a key opportunity for the AU and all those involved in the Campaign to collectively evaluate what has worked, what needs to be improved, and the direction the Campaign should take for the AU to meet its objectives and enable girls to fulfil their potential.

As a partner to the Campaign, Girls Not Brides has a unique contribution to make in this process. Our secretariat consulted widely with members in Africa, and identified collective messages and recommendations that we shared with representatives from the AU Commission, selected government representatives and partner organisations during a Campaign assessment workshop that took place from 10 to 12 October 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia.

We are grateful to the 80 members that were able to contribute to this consultation process from across the continent. This blog captures your recommendations and shares some insights from the discussions that took place in Lusaka.

How well has the AU Campaign to end child marriage done so far?  Our members’ views on progress and challenges

Our members recognised that the AU Campaign opened space for a conversation on child marriage among African leaders, resulting in the adoption of an African Common Position on Child marriage. The Campaign has also succeeded in putting child marriage on the development agenda of many AU Member States, most of which had previously not developed a national response to child marriage. Fifteen countries have launched the Campaign to date, and a growing number of governments are developing national strategies or action plans that are aimed specifically at curbing child marriage.

While some members had been involved to varying degrees in the national launches of the Campaign, most were not aware of any post-launch Campaign activities that had been implemented at the national level. An overwhelming majority of respondents considered that they had insufficient information on the Campaign’s purpose, ways of working and post-launch implementation plans, and were therefore unable to meaningfully participate in it.

Girls Not Brides members’ recommendations to the AU Campaign

When asked to make recommendations for the next two years of the AU Campaign, Girls Not Brides’ members stressed the importance of leveraging the momentum raised and ensuring AU Member States move from commitment to action.

The Girls Not Brides’ members identified the following four recommendations as those most commonly made by members, and presented them at the progress report workshop:

  • The AU Campaign should ensure meaningful integration of civil society and young people as equal partners to the Campaign at the regional and national levels. We believe that a strategy to integrate civil society in the Campaign will be crucial for the Campaign to reach its ambitious objectives.
  • The AU Campaign should provide specific and strategic guidance to Member States on how to prepare, launch and implement the Campaign at national level. This can be done by documenting and sharing best practices and lessons learned from various countries and by providing a platform for countries to learn from one another’s experiences.
  • The AU Campaign should encourage Member States to develop and implement national strategies that reflect their regional and global commitments and obligations (from the AU Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Maputo Protocol, to Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals). This can be done through alignment of targets, indicators, but also reporting and monitoring mechanisms.
  • The AU Campaign should ensure coherence between its own work and activities undertaken by other relevant AU departments and initiatives that focus on issues related to child marriage (such as health, education, youth empowerment, etc.)

What’s next?

Based on the workshop discussions and on the feedback received from selected Members’ States and partners, the AU will develop a report on the status child marriage in Africa (to be issued in April 2017) and develop its workplan for 2017-2018. The members and secretariat of Girls Not Brides are committed to working with the Campaign and enabling CSOs from across Africa to advance the objectives of the Campaign.

We believe that it is possible to end child marriage in Africa, but only if all of us  – young people, communities, civil society organisations, governments, regional and international institutions, and development partners – work together as a strong and coherent movement for change.