Kenya celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday by launching the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage under the theme, “Celebrating the Bold Women of Kenya.” Kenya is the 19th country to have launched the campaign since 2014.
Women, girls, civil society actors and government officials gathered at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi to celebrate.
To mark the occasion First Lady Magaret Gukuo Kenyatta spoke on the President's behalf. She said that Kenya already had strong laws to tackle child marriage and the African Union campaign was another step in the right direction towards a safer and freer Kenya.
"We know that we will only achieve this vision by working together. Let us all therefore, join hands to make Kenya a safer and freer country not only for our women and girls, but for all citizens." First Lady Magaret Gukuo Kenyatta
Dr Mustafa Kaloko, AU Commissioner of Social Affairs said:
"Child marriage is a reflection of the way we perceive and value women and girls in our societies. We cannot and will not, achieve our full developmental potential if we do not strive to achieve gender equality, education and full empowerment of the girl-child."
The recently appointed UN Secretary General, António Guterres, also attended the launch. Stressing the need for governments to address gender inequality, he mentioned child marriage and female genital mutilation as specific challenges to overcome.
The launch is a promising move towards ending child marriage in Kenya. However, it must be put into action and more needs to be done to empower girls in the country. 23% of girls in Kenya are married before the age of 18. Rates vary across regions with the North Eastern and Coastal regions having the highest prevalence rates.
ABOUT THE AU CAMPAIGN TO END CHILD MARRIAGE
Launched in May 2014, the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage aims to speed up change across Africa by encouraging governments to develop strategies to raise awareness of child marriage and address the harmful impact it has. Specifically, it aims to:
Originally planned to last for two years, the campaign has now been extended to run until at least 2017. Nineteen countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – have launched the campaign so far, with more launches planned in the course of 2017.
- Identify the socio-economic impact of child marriage
- Promote the effective implementation of AU legal and policy instruments and support policy action
- Remove barriers and bottlenecks to law enforcement
- Increase the capacity of non-state actors to undertake evidence-based policy advocacy
In the time it has taken to read this article 27 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds