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130 million African girls and women were married today as children – World

On the International Day of the African Child, UNICEF calls on African Union member states to accelerate efforts and increase domestic resources to end child marriage and female genital mutilation.

**ADIS ABABA/DAKAR/NAIROBI/NEW YORK, June 16, 2022 – **Africa is home to 130 million married girls, both girls under the age of 18 who have already married and adult women who married as children. UNICEF today launched continental and regional reports on child marriage and female genital mutilation in Africa. The reports provide updates on the status of these practices and call on governments and regional institutions to accelerate efforts and increase national resources to end child marriage and female genital mutilation, in line with Agenda 2063 and the global agenda. 2030 of the African Union for sustainable development. Regional and global priorities are underlined by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Child marriage and female genital mutilation are a violation of the rights of the child. However, in many communities across the continent, girls continue to be at risk of one or both practices. Child marriage is present across the continent, with the highest levels in the Sahel and parts of central and eastern Africa. Nine out of ten countries with the highest levels of child marriage in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa, including, respectively, Niger, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Guinea and Nigeria. Almost 140 million girls and women in Africa have undergone female genital mutilation, of which more than 40 million also experienced child marriage.

“Ending child marriage is a key priority for UNICEF. To accelerate efforts, we must invest in high-impact areas, in particular, reducing poverty as the main driver of child marriage, ensuring girls’ access to quality education and learning at scale, and social and behavioral change at scale. favor of the full and complete freedom of girls and women. active participation in social and economic life. Multisectoral and contextualized interventions are needed given the higher prevalence of child marriage in rural areas, among the poorest households, and among those with little or no education. We need ‘unusual business’ to turn the needle on child marriage and help ensure girls’ and women’s rights are protected,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Some countries in Africa have made great strides in reducing child marriage, while others have stalled. Conflict, climate change and COVID-19, which together have disrupted education and created economic crises, have put more women and girls at risk of child marriage, as some parents turn to it to cope with the effect of crises.

The theme of this year’s commemoration of the International Day of the African Child on June 16 is: “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Advances in Policy and Practice since 2013.” Data shows that, continentally, Africa continues to lag behind in progress towards meeting Sustainable Development Goal 5.3 targets to eliminate all harmful practices by 2030. If progress is not accelerated, 45 million more girls in the Sub-Saharan Africa will become girls. brides in the next decade, fueled by slow progress and population growth.

“As African governments assess both what has been invested and what remains to be done to end child marriage and female genital mutilation, increasing national resources to address harmful practices is imperative to success. This will give every child on the continent a better chance of having the childhood they deserve and are so entitled to,” said Mohamed M. Malick Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Concerted interventions such as the UNICEF-UNFPA Global/Joint Program to End Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage and FGM (Saleema Initiative) as well as the Spotlight Initiative are more important than ever for the successful elimination of harmful practices on the continent.

To accelerate action to improve child rights in Africa, UNICEF urges governments and all stakeholders to:

  • Recommit to and accelerate implementation of commitments to help develop and realize children’s full potential;
  • Scale up the response to emerging child rights challenges on the continent through laws and policies that protect children, joint research and advocacy, and stronger oversight by parliaments;
  • Increase investment in child protection programs to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation;
  • To promote inclusion and reach all children, especially those who are often overlooked, including children with special needs, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those living in rural areas in the spirit of leaving no one behind;
  • Strengthen continental institutions to build stronger child protection, health, education and social protection systems;
  • Take a whole-of-society approach, including engaging children and their communities to catalyze change for children.

“Without community engagement and the inclusion of traditional leaders to drive technical interventions, it will not be possible to change the social norms that promote child marriage and other harmful practices. We need stronger civil society organisations, traditional leaders and community structures that strengthen the child protection system and protect girls and boys from violence, exploitation, abuse and harmful practices,” said Dr. Edward Addai , UNICEF Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

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**NOTES TO EDITORS:**

For more information on reports, see:

  • Child Marriage in Eastern and Southern Africa: Statistical Summary and Reflections on the End of Practice: uni.cf/CMESAR
  • Child marriage in West and Central Africa: a statistical summary and reflections on the end of the practice: uni.cf/CMWCAR
  • Towards an end to harmful practices in Africa: uni.cf/HPAfrica

For more information, contact:

Diane Yameogo, UNICEF WCARO, +221 78 389 1351, diyameogo@unicef.org

Priscilla Ofori-Amanfo, UNICEF ESARO, +254 708 692 649, poforiamanfo@unicef.org

Rahel Mesfin Leikun, UNICEF AULO, +251 941 456 344, rleikun@unicef.org

Helen Wylie, UNICEF Headquarters, +1 917 265 4516, hwylie@unicef.org

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