Accelerating collective efforts for children in Africa
On 16th June 2015, the International Day of the African Child was commemorated under the theme “Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Africa“. Community leaders, traditional, religious leaders, girls affected by child marriage and key stakeholders came together to focus on the rights of children on the African continent. Globally, every year, more than 14 million girls are married before they turn 18, and it is estimated that between 2011 and 2020 more than 140 million girls will become child brides.
“To successfully effect positive change, collective responsibility and action are essential. The nexus between governments, communities and civil society is imperative. We posit that lasting change requires leaders, development partners and communities to build consensus and agree that child marriage is detrimental to the child, family and nation. Indeed, from the matrona in a remote village to the policy maker at the African Union, a new honesty and fervency is urgently needed to address a practice that is harmful and stifling to this continent’s children… and to the continent itself.” – Graca Machel, 25th African Summit, June 2015
Many SUN Countries were among those who came together to celebrate the day. Global Youth Ambassadors from A World at School, a global campaign to get all children into school, showcased events in a blog. The blog features a wide array of activities from Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, the Gambia, South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Swaziland, Namibia, DRC, Burundi, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal and Rwanda. Events held to increase awareness about this years theme include the “Hands up who’s #UPFORSCHOOL” campaign, radio shows, marches, and petitions, all of which rallied supporters in numerous cities and villages.
In addition, UNICEF held a Twitter #YouthTakeover on Twitter, led by five female activists.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) June 15, 2015
Nutritional risks associated with early marriage and early childbearing
Available evidence from developing countries has shown that nutritional risks associated with early marriage and early childbearing, particularly in developing countries, affects women’s nutritional status both directly and indirectly. Despite the success of international standards for the minimum age of marriage, such as the African Charter’s Maputo Protocol on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women and Africa, the African Charter’s Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child, in providing a platform for dialogue on child marriage, the practice remains rampant. Africa has the second highest rate of child marriage in the world after South Asia.
Reports show that 39 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before their 18th birthdays. Adolescent childbearing and nutritional well-being are increasingly attracting global attention. Approximately 16 million adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years of age give birth each year. Children delivered to young mothers accounted for roughly 11% of all births worldwide, with 95% taking place in developing countries. Early marriage, followed by early pregnancy is a public health concern due to its potential implications on maternal and child health. Adolescent pregnancy at a time when women are not biologically mature, increases the risk of damaging the reproductive tract and pregnancy-related complications such as, anemia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, maternal and infant mortality, and low birth weight.
Visit the following links to learn more about efforts towards ending child marriage
- Girls not Brides: A global partnership of civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential
- Sight and Life article: Nutrition of adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries, David I. Thurnham, Sight and Life, Volume 27 (3) 2013
- Save the Children report: Adolescent Nutrition, Policy and Programming in SUN+ Countries
- European Year for Development blog Haoua: A Bride at 9, Anthony Vanoverschelde, Plan International
- Huffington Post blog: Speaking Up for Girls’ Rights on the Day of the African Child, Graça Machel, Graça Machel Trust and Leila Pakkala, UNICEF ESARO