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Child marriage and the SDGs: celebrating Day of the African Child 2017

African Girls Summit 2015

Every year on 16 June, Day of the African Child raises awareness of the challenges faced by children across Africa. It is an opportunity for all of us to make the case for the right of children to stay in school and out of marriage.

Day of the African Child and the Sustainable Development Goals

This year, Day of the African Child focuses on The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity.

The 2030 Agenda refers to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of 17 goals which outline the world’s development priorities until 2030. Goal 5 of the SDGs includes target 5.3 to:

“Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”

This echoes the African Union’s commitments as well as Article 21 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which prohibits child marriage and urges governments to set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage, with no exceptions. Read more about the links between child marriage and the SDGs.

No sustainable development without ending child marriage

Girls’ lives are at the heart sustainable development. As long as girls are married, we won’t make progress on at least half of the SDGs. These SDGs include ending poverty and hunger, improving health, education, and economic growth and achieving gender equality.

In line with this year’s theme for Day of the African Child, ending child marriage will help us achieve:

  • Protection. Child marriage puts girls at risk of sexual and domestic violence as well as teenage pregnancy – the leading cause of death for adolescent girls age 15-19 worldwide. Ending the child marriage will protect thousands of girls every year.
  • Empowerment. Child marriage often puts an end to girls’ education. When girls are able to stay in school and out of child marriage, they gain the skills to be economically independent and can fulfil their aspirations.
  • Equal opportunity. Child marriage perpetuates cycles of poverty and gender inequality which affect girls throughout their lives. An end to child marriage means girls get a better start in life.

Our call to action on Day of the African Child 2017

African governments have committed to ending child marriage by 2030. Now is the time to act.

Nine countries across Africa have adopted national strategies or initiatives to address child marriage, while another eight are in the process of developing one. 19 countries have also launched the African Union campaign to end child marriage, with more launches planned this year. More need to follow!

What should African governments do?

  • Develop ambitious plans for reaching target 5.3 of the SDGs, with clear indicators for progress.
  • Develop, implement and fund comprehensive policies and programmes to address child marriage across different sectors – including by empowering girls, mobilising families and communities, providing health, education and other services, as well as adopting and implementing strong laws and policies.
  • Work with everyone who has a role to play in ending child marriage! Including civil society, communities as a whole, girls and their families, traditional and religious leaders, other governments, donors, and international organisations.

Celebrating Day of the African Child 2017

  • Not everyone knows about child marriage. Share the facts about child marriage in Africa and why ending the practice is key to sustainable development. Use our social media toolkit.
  • Join hands with civil society organisations to make the case for an end to child marriage. Agree on collective messages and draft joint statements, press briefings or social media messages together. Draw on these advocacy messages.
  • Reach out to your local parliamentarian. Ask them to take action, be it adopting legislation, supporting implementation of the SDGs, allocating money to ending child marriage, or holding the government to account. Use our toolkit for parliamentarians.
  • Join our tweet-chat at 11 am (BST) on 16 June. We will discuss the growing number of national initiatives to address child marriage in Africa, as well as the inspiring work of civil society. Use #GNBchat and #DAC2017. Follow us on Twitter.