ECOWAS adopts framework to strengthen child protection in West Africa

On 5 October, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems in Niamey, Niger.

As a result, 15 West African countries agreed to strengthen their legislation and take concrete measures to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation. Crucially, child marriage is one of five priority areas identified in the Strategic Framework.

As programmes for children are strengthened at national and community level, Ministerial commitments made during the meeting will be submitted for approval at the next ECOWAS Heads of State meeting in December 2017.This is an important step forward. While child marriage exists throughout Africa, it is especially prevalent in West Africa and Central Africa. The region is home to six out of the ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world About four in ten young women in West Africa and Central Africa were married as children.

“The Ministerial adoption marks a major step forward for the protection of children in our region”, said ECOWAS’ Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow.

The framework could catalyse action, especially ahead of the High Level Meeting on Ending Child Marriage in West and Central Africa happening later this month. It also presents a useful tool for Girls Not Brides members who could use it for  advocacy purposes at the national and regional level.

Led by the ECOWAS Commission, the Strategic Framework was developed in collaboration with a regional child protection working group comprised of UN agencies, international civil society organisations and networks. These include Girls Not Brides members World Vision, Save the Children and Plan International West and Central Africa offices.

The framework is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, using the same indicator as target 5.3: the percentage of women between 20-24 who were married before 15 and 18 years old.

On the same day, West African First Ladies committed to ending obstetric fistula and gender-based violence including child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting and rape. Read the declaration (available only in French).

They also called for an increase of national budgets dedicated to implementing action plans related to child protection, the elimination of female genital mutilation and obstetric fistula.