JOHANNESBURG, The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) says the education of girls is one of best strategies to delay child marriage because educated girls are able to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need.
Without progress it could take more than 100 years to end child marriages in West and Central Africa, Unicef warns in a new report, entitled “Achieving a future without child marriage: Focus on West and Central Africa”.
The continued practice comes with far-reaching, life-altering consequences for millions of child brides and a crippling impact on the region’s prosperity, Unicef said in a mediate statement Monday.
We need to shake ourselves up, said Fatoumata Ndiaye, Unicef’s Deputy Executive Director. We cannot continue to let so many of our girls miss out on their health, education, and childhood. At current rates, our report shows, it will take over 100 years to eliminate child marriage in the region; how is this acceptable?
The new projections, released during a high-level meeting on ending child marriage in Dakar this week, aim to bring the spotlight on the region of the world where girls face the highest risk of marrying in childhood.
While the prevalence of child marriage in West and Central Africa has declined over the past two decades, progress has been uneven, and four in 10 girls in the region are still married before the age of 18 and, of these, one in three before the age of 15.
West and Central Africa includes six of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world — Niger, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.
Despite the gloomy forecast, the report also emphasised that even in high prevalence countries progress was possible, if the right mix of strategies are put into place. These include empowering girls, mobilising families and communities to change attitudes and behaviours, providing adequate services to those at risk and to married girls, and putting in place consistent laws and policies to protect and promote their rights.
Five countries in the region — Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Togo, Ghana and Rwanda — stand out with declines in the practice ranging from 40 to 60 per cent in the last 25 years.
Getting girls to schools should be our top priority, said Ndiaye. Not only because it equips girls for life, but it also helps to lift their families, their communities, their countries out of poverty.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK