In West and Central Africa, child marriage is prevalent at 41%, which means that nearly 60 million girls and young women were married before they turned 18. However, this conceals significant differences between and within countries.

Child marriage is a marriage in which at least one of the parties is or was a child at the time of the marriage.

The term child marriage is often used interchangeably with the terms forced marriage and early marriage but child marriage should be understood as distinct from forced or early marriage.

• Forced marriage refers to a marriage in which either or both of the parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent. Although many child marriages are also forced marriages, forced marriages include marriages that are not child marriages, such as where a widow is forced to marry a relative of her deceased husband.

• Early marriage refers to a marriage in which even though one of the parties to the marriage may not have reached the minimum marriageable age, majority status will nevertheless be conferred at marriage through a legal process of emancipation

In 2014, the AU appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Committee) appointed a Special Rapporteur on Child Marriage.

In 2015, the Heads of State and Governments of the AU announced that they had formally adopted an African common position on the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa (the AU Common Position).

This AU Common Position urges all member states of the AU to, among other things, (i) develop national strategies and action plans aimed at ending child marriage, and (ii) enact and implement laws that set the legal minimum age for marriage at 18 years of age or above, with no exceptions and applicable under all legal systems and (iii) implement all continental policies and legal instruments relating to human rights, gender equality, maternal and child health, and harmful traditional practices for the empowerment and participation of girls and women in development.

These global and regional declarations, reports, and positions consistently emphasize the adverse impact of child marriage and frame it as a hindrance to human development and as a violation of human rights. Global and regional opinion on child marriage is also consistent in recognizing the disproportionately adverse effect that child marriage has on girls.

Girls who marry young tend to have children younger and more frequently, which puts them at increased risk of maternal morbidity and mortality and their children at risk of infant mortality.

Girls who marry young are more likely to drop out of school and this precludes their full participation in economic, political, and social endeavours. Africa has the world’s highest proportion of young people to total population size, with 32% of the total population being between the ages of 10 and 24.

Countries with large populations of young people have enormous potential for economic growth and social development but in order to realize that growth, the right kinds of investments in human and social capital are needed.

Child marriage is not only a violation of human rights but also a significant hindrance to Africa’s development.

Its persistence on our continent has hindered Africa’s efforts to achieve six of the eight Millennium Development Goals: to eliminate extreme poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS.

Increasingly, child marriage is being viewed as a symptom of the profound gender inequality that exists in Africa. In one sense, it is a manifestation of gender inequality, which constitutes discrimination based on sex and gender. This is reflected by the overwhelmingly disproportionate prevalence of child marriage amongst girls.

However, in another sense child marriage is a practice that reinforces gender inequality and the social constructions that entrench patriarchy and discrimination. Gender inequality lies at the root of child marriage and must therefore shape our perspectives and inform our approaches to ending it.

Thus, in order to decrease the number of child brides, the region will need to more than double the current levels of progress.

The data on child marriage in West and Central Africa clearly shows the scale of child marriage in the region and the populations most affected, while also emphasizing the differences between countries. Trend analysis and projections highlight the urgency and importance of rapidly scaling up investments in high-impact interventions to end child marriage in the region, especially when taking into account the growing population and subsequently the potential for a growing number of child brides in the region.

These statistics, are at the core of our NGO, in mobilizing and educating the girl child.

Click on the link to see more.

Child Marriage in West and Central Africa

A report on child marriage in Africa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *