While Unicef estimated the number of child brides to reach 310 million by 2050, the African Union has long took a stand at bringing that number to zero in the same year.
Creating a campaign to end child marriage, the AU is mobilizing the continent in creating policies that vow to end child marriage, preserving human rights of Africa’s children.
While countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mali are ending child marriage, Ghana and parts of North Africa are joining the movement.
Ghana’s president John Mahama launched the campaign in the end of the past week, in an effort to strengthen and hasten the national consciousness in ending child marriage. Stressing that child marriage is the most obnoxious practice of the 21st century, and a total violation of the rights of children, especially the girl-child.
Ghana’s first lady Lordina Mahama also spoke at the launch, citing the need for immediate national action in addressing implications of child marriage. She noted that despite the legal age of marriage of age for all genders being 18, 21% of Ghanaian girls are married before legal age with 50% of these girls found in Northern Ghana. Some of these girls are married with the consent of their parents, at times focus will be on the traditional custom of bride price, with families looking at such agreements as a source of income for the household, at the expense of girls dropping out of school to become wives.
Meanwhile in Egypt, a North Africa Regional Capacity Building workshop on ending Child Marriage was orchestrated in Cairo. In a joining partnership with AU, UNFPA and UNICEF, the five-day workshop is aimed at creating working mechanisms and strategies to ensure that children’s rights are respected even through traditional practices. Egypt in itself aspires to be child marriage free, according to Health and Population Minister Dr Maissa Shokri. Taking note on Egypt’s existing policies such as the 2008 child law and the 2014 national strategy on child marriage, working mechanisms such as early detection of girls at risk of dropping out of schools, targeting vulnerable families and equipping them with social services packages decrease the rates of child marriage.
Due to the Arab springs, North Africa faced a slight increase in child marriages particularly in areas of political instability. According to girls not brides campaign, families married off their daughters because they felt that it was in their best interest, to ensure safety in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault. In other instances, families use marriage in light of reducing home expenses where dowry is paid, and losing one less member in the family.
Currently, there are 11 countries that have adopted the AU’s campaign to end child marriage including Burkina Faso, Mali, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar and Niger