High-level meeting aims to urgently accelerate action to end child marriage in West and Central Africa
23 October, 2017
Dakar – Ministers, first ladies, United Nations agencies, civil society, religious and traditional leaders, youth groups and other key actors from across West and Central Africa gather in Dakar, Senegal from 23 to 25 October 2017, to strengthen their commitments to ending child marriage and agree on tangible and measurable steps towards eliminating the practice in the region.
Whilst some encouraging progress towards ending child marriage has been made, the region is still home to six of the ten countries with the highest rates worldwide.
The High-Level Meeting on Ending Child Marriage in West and Central Africa brings together, for the first time in the region, many key actors, to create a consensus on what it will take to translate existing and future commitments into measurable actions to end the practice for good.
On behalf of the Government of Senegal, Minister for Good Governance and Child Protection, Her Excellency Mrs. Rahmatoulaye Guèye Diop, said: “The Government of Senegal is delighted to welcome these key actors from across the region and the world and confirms its commitment to ending child marriage in West and Central Africa.”
On behalf of the United Nations agencies, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Mrs. Fatoumata Ndiaye, said: “Ending child marriage in Africa is possible but time is running out. Unless we accelerate our efforts at all levels, especially at community level, millions of children will become child brides, compromising their health, education, childhood. We need to act now.”
On behalf of civil society, Save the Children International Chief Executive Helle Thorning Schmidt said: “This week, leaders are gathering in Dakar to step up the fight to end child marriage. We are here to stop millions of girls being robbed of their childhoods. Together with governments, religious and community leaders, civil society and development partners, we hope to agree on meaningful actions to end child marriage for good.”
Child marriage is a severe violation of human rights affecting almost 15 million girls worldwide each year. It robs girls of their childhood, puts them at risk of physical and sexual violence, often forces them to drop-out of school and frequently leads to early pregnancy.
There has been a growing recognition of the need to end child marriage, including a specific target within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the rollout of the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa. Earlier in October, fifteen member states from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have adopted a regional child protection framework which will help to create safety nets to prevent, protect and support girls who are at risk of child marriage as well as girls already married.
The meeting, officially opened by Prime Minister of the Republic of Senegal, His Excellency Mr. Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, has participants from all sectors including First Ladies of Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso, ministers and senior government officials from 25 countries across West and Central Africa, Fatoumata Ndiaye, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director; Fatimata Dia Sow, ECOWAS Commissioner; Ms. Marie Christine Bocoum Special Rapporteur of the African Union on Child Marriage; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children International and former Prime Minister of Denmark; Her Royal Highness Princess Mabel van Oranje and Chair of Girls Not Brides; Anne-Brigitte Albrectsen, Plan International Chief Executive Officer; Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Africa Board Chair and former Minister of Education of Ghana, , and Mabingue Ngom, UNFPA Regional Director.
Hosted by the Government of Senegal, the meeting is organized with support from a regional coalition of civil society organisations (Forum for African Women Educationalists; Girls Not Brides; Plan International; Save the Children International; Women in Law and Development in Africa and World Vision International) and the United Nations agencies (UNFPA, UNICEF and UN WOMEN).
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