To mark the Day of the African Child, 16 June 2016, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage has launched a music video and is calling for renewed action to end child marriage across Africa.
The song “We are Girls, Not Brides” was written, composed and sung by a group of talented young girls from Lusaka Girls School, who take part in a girls’ empowerment club run by Girls Not Brides member Continuity-Zambia Organization. The song is a powerful reminder that girls want to be girls not brides, and that governments must deliver on their commitments to end child marriage in Africa.
“We know this song is going to have a real impact on young girls, boys, communities, and families. A message from girls telling the world that they have the right to speak out and refuse marriage will make a much bigger difference than one coming from adults. I think this song will make a real difference to the work we are doing to end child marriage across Africa. Especially in places where people are still reluctant to accept that girls are equal to boys, and have the potential to achieve great things for our great continent,” said Andrew Sichangwa, Executive Director of Continuity-Zambia Organization, a member of Girls Not Brides.
In addition to a regional campaign to end child marriage and the increasing number of national initiatives, more African leaders are committing to end the practice.
But more work needs to be done across the region to develop and implement national strategies and action plans to end child marriage and support married girls in a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and well-resourced way. Child marriage prevention and support to married girls needs to be integrated across a range of interventions and sectors.
Comprehensive strategies should include initiatives to empower girls, mobilise families and communities as agents of change, provide adequate services (particularly health, education and justice services), and install a legal framework that protects girls from marriage and its negative consequences. The government should also work closely with civil society and other actors to protect all girls at risk and support married girls.
Child marriage: still prevalent and jeopardising the future of the African region
Child marriage is still a reality for millions of girls across Africa. The African continent is home to 16 out of the 20 countries with the world’s highest rates of child marriage. 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18.
Child marriage jeopardises efforts to improve maternal and infant health and has devastating consequences for the girl, her family, and her future children. Child brides face higher risk of death and injury in pregnancy and childbirth: girls aged 15-19 are more likely to die in childbirth than young women aged 20-24, and girls under the age of 15 are at an even greater risk. Their children suffer too: when a mother is under 20 her baby is 50% more likely to die within the first few weeks of life.
There is a perception that the impact of child marriage is limited, but that is not the case. This practice curtails the regions development and economic prosperity by denying millions of girls the education and opportunities that would have empowered them to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Over 60% of child brides in developing countries have received no formal education. If we don’t act now, the number of girls married as children will double by 2050 and Africa will become the region with the highest number of child brides in the world.
Ending child marriage could help the region achieve at least eight of the seventeen Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including health, poverty, education, nutrition and violence against women and girls.
Through effective partnership, Africa can lead the way to change globally
Given the scale and complexity of child marriage, this practice cannot be ended by politicians alone. All actors, from lawmakers and community leaders, to the media, civil society actors and the girls themselves, have a role to play in making child marriage history.
Young people in particular need to be at the heart of efforts to end child marriage. With almost 200 million people aged 15-24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. We cannot achieve results on a large scale without involving youth.
For interviews, quotes, or images, please contact Maryam Mohsin, Communications Officer, Girls Not Brides: +44 7436 095435 / media@GirlsNotBrides.org
The Day of the African Child is marked on 16 June each year to honour the memory of the school children killed in 1976 during a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa.
- Music video: “We are Girls, Not Brides”: the anthem to end child marriage.
- Song: “We are Girls, Not Brides”: the anthem to end child marriage.
- Flickr page. Please credit Girls Not Brides.
For more information about Girls Not Brides, visit www.GirlsNotBrides.org
In the time it has taken to read this article 50 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