The end of 2016 was marked by the launch in Liberia of the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage under the theme “We are children not wives, save us from child marriage”. This brings the total of countries having launched the continent-wide campaign to 18.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection condemned child marriage and announced the government would ramp up its efforts to end a practice that affects 36% of girls in the country.
The launch event, which took place in Tubmanburg, Bomi County on 14 December, brought together women, children, traditional chiefs, as well as UNICEF and other development partners.
The keynote speaker at the launch, Representative. Samuel Garya Karmo, Bomi County Electoral District, said: “With no disregard to the values of traditional practices in the country, it is about time for everyone to let children remain children and not force them into marriage because of economic difficulties a family might be faced with.”
The president of the Liberia Children Representative Forum, Ms. Satta Sheriff, explained that “tradition and the stigma of straying from tradition perpetuate child marriage in many communities.” She continued: “Crucially, gender inequality and the low value placed on girls underlie the practice and in most instances, child marriages result [in] teenage pregnancy.”
Sheriff added that ending child marriage “will enhance the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, thereby providing equitable opportunities for girls to achieve their educational and developmental rights.”
In parallel to the launch, Save the Children in Liberia kicked off a three-year campaign aimed at removing barriers for excluded children. The campaign will focus on child marriage in particular, the issue having been identified by children across the country as one of the main challenges affecting them.
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. Eighteen countries - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Liberia, 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
- Government of Liberia, Government launches campaign to end child marriage, 15 December 2016
- Liberian Observer, Liberia: Rep. Karmo joins fight against child marriage, 13 December 2016.
- Front Page Africa, Save the Children launches campaign to end child marriage, December 2016
- Girls Not Brides, Liberia country page.
In the time it has taken to read this article 29 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 3 seconds