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Ending child marriage in Africa: there’s no time to wait! – Day of the African Child 2015

Naomi, 16, attends a safe space for girls in Zambia. The space is part of the Adolescent Girls Empowerment Programme, run by Population Council and funded by DFID. | Photo credit: Jessica Lea | DFID

Commemorated every year on 16 June, Day of the African Child is an opportunity to reflect on the barriers that children face across Africa, a continent where 40% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday.

Child marriage holds girls back, depriving them of their health, education and a chance to prosper, but it also holds back their families, communities and the whole of Africa too.

Luckily, things are changing. In just a few years, political commitments to end child marriage have dramatically increased. From the launch of an African Union campaign to end child marriage to the development of national strategies on child marriage in a number of countries, what was once a taboo issue is now firmly on the political agenda.

This year’s theme, “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”, is particularly relevant to our efforts. Not only does it bring the continent’s attention on the issue that bring us all together, but it does so by highlighting the importance of partnership.

Much progress has been made on child marriage, but so much more needs to be done. If we don’t accelerate our efforts, the number of child brides in sub-Saharan Africa will double by 2050, and Africa will become the region with the highest rates of child marriage worldwide.

On Day of the African Child, let’s make it loud and clear that it is only by working together that we will end child marriage once and for all in Africa.

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Child marriage, a problem across Africa

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of women are married as children. Africa is home to 15 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
  • No African country is completely free from child marriage, whether they have high rates of child marriage, such as Niger (76%), or lower rates like Algeria (2%).

Child marriage has devastating consequences for girls, their families, their communities and for Africa as a whole:

  • Girls who give birth under age 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than young women in their 20s. 65% of all cases of obstetric fistula occur in girls under the age of 18.
  • The persistence of child marriage has hindered Africa’s efforts to achieve six of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 1 to 6).

Time is ticking!

  • If we do nothing to accelerate progress, the number of child brides in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double by 2050, and Africa will become the region with the highest rates worldwide.

To find out more, read our brief on child marriage in Africa

Ending child marriage: we’re at a tipping point

Never before have so many African leaders committed to addressing child marriage:

It is now time to act and translate these commitments into tangible, positive change in the lives of girls.

Together, we can end child marriage once and for all

From policymakers to community members, we all have a role to play in ending child marriage:

  • All African governments can develop and implement national action plans to end child marriage and support girls who are already married
  • The African Union can help translate the ongoing political will into lasting, positive change in the lives of girls.
  • Girls Not Brides members and civil society across Africa can come together to share expertise, speak with one voice, and encourage governments to act.

Only by coming together will we make child marriage history. There is no time to wait. Together, we can end child marriage once and for all.

Take part!

A lot of exciting activities are taking place on Day of the African Child. Have a look below: