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African Union launches its first-ever campaign to end child marriage

  • Africa is home to 15 out of 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage
  • Two-year campaign will aim to accelerate efforts to end child marriage across the continent
  • "Together we can make Africa free of child marriage" says UNICEF ambassador Angelique Kidjo

Every year, 15 million girls are married off before they turn 18, with devastating consequences for their health, education and wellbeing. 15 out of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa.

In an effort to provide a bright future for millions of women and girls, the African Union has launched the first-ever Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa. The two-year campaign, organised in partnership with UNICEF and UNFPA, will focus 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.

The campaign also aims to support policies and action that protect girls’ human rights, and to remove barriers to law enforcement.

The campaign brings together a large range of partners including the Ford Foundation, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Save the Children, Plan International, Africa Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, the General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), a member of Girls Not Brides, was named Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.

The impact of child marriage on Africa’s girls 

Child marriage is a reality for millions of children – predominantly girls – across Africa. 39% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before their 18th birthday; 13% are married by their 15th birthday.

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The repercussions of marrying as a child affect girls throughout their lives. Marriage often marks the end of girl’s education, limits her economic opportunities outside the home, and exposes her to physical, sexual and emotional violence.

Child marriage also threatens efforts to improve maternal health across Africa. Child brides face higher risk of death and injury in pregnancy and childbirth, with girls under 15 being five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Their children are at risk too: when a mother is under 18, her baby is 50% more likely to die in its first year of life than a baby born to older mothers.

#EndChildMarriageNOW: Join the campaign on social media

Africans are raising their voices on social media in support of the campaign.

Children’s rights advocate and award-winning artist Angelique Kidjo welcomed the African Union’s campaign: “I want to applaud the African Union that has just launched a campaign to get rid of child marriage – a campaign led by Africans for Africans.”

“We now need to take this message to every village and every family where people need to be convinced. […] Together we can make Africa free of child marriage.”

You, too, can add your voice!

Share why you support a world free of child marriage by using the hashtag #EndChildMarriageNOW on Twitter.