Press Release: African Union Girls Summit.

Press Release: African Union Girls Summit.

Child brides in Africa could more than double to 310 million by 2050 – UNICEF

NEW YORK/LUSAKA, 26 November 2015 – If current trends persist, the total number of child brides in Africa will rise from 125 million to 310 million by 2050, according to a UNICEF report released at the African Union Girls Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, today.

UNICEF’s statistical report, A Profile of Child Marriage in Africa, points to slow rates of reduction, combined with rapid population growth, as major causes for the projected increase. In all other regions of the world, current rates of reduction and demographic trends mean there will be fewer child brides each year. By 2050 Africa will surpass South Asia as the region with the highest number of women aged 20 to 24 who were married as children.

“Child marriage generates norms that have become increasingly difficult to exterminate – norms that undermine the value of our women,” said Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma. “Through greater awareness, teamed with a collaborative approach, the crippling effects of child marriage can be eradicated.”

Across Africa, the percentage of young women who were married as children has dropped from 44 per cent in 1990 to 34 per cent today. Because Africa’s total population of girls is expected to rise from 275 million today to 465 million by 2050, far more ambitious action is needed – as even a doubling of the current rate of reduction in child marriages will still mean an increase in the number of child brides.

Progress has also been deeply inequitable: The likelihood that a girl from the poorest quintile would be married as a child is as strong today as it was 25 years ago.

When children get married, their prospects for a healthy, successful life decline drastically, often setting off an intergenerational cycle of poverty. Child brides are less likely to finish school, more likely to be victims of violence and become infected with HIV. Children born to teenage mothers have a higher risk of being stillborn, dying soon after birth and having low birth weight. Child brides often lack the skills needed for employment.

The African Union launched a continent-wide campaign to End Child Marriage last May. This was followed with an action plan for governments to reduce child marriage rates by increasing girls’ access to birth registration, quality education and reproductive health services; as well as strengthening and enforcing laws and policies that protect girls’ rights and prohibit marriage before 18.

“The sheer number of girls affected — and what this means in terms of lost childhoods and shattered futures — underline the urgency of banning the practice of child marriage once and for all,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “The data is also clear that ending child marriage requires a much sharper focus on reaching the poorest and most marginalized girls — those in greatest need and at greatest risk — with quality education and a host of other protective services. Their lives, and the futures of their communities, are at stake. Each child bride is an individual tragedy. An increase in their number is intolerable.”

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There was a decrease in the DRC’s child marriage rates over the last thirty years, but progress is still slow. This practice persists and it is related among others to the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy. According to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2013-2014), 37.3% of women aged 20 to 24 were already in union before reaching the age of 18 years and 10% were before the age 15.

Aware of this situation, the Government of the DRC launched the campaign to end child marriage on 15 May 2015 and committed to develop a National Action Plan to end this harmful practice. The interventions outlined in this plan to counter child marriage include a cooperation of all stakeholders at all levels (international, national, community, individual) and interests include:
(a) improving access to primary and secondary education quality, both for girls and boys; (b) standardization to 18 years as the legal age of marriage for boys and girls; (c) the promotion of positive social and cultural norms through a strong mobilization of girls, boys, parents (fathers and mothers) as well as political leaders and administrative officials; (d) support for children already married through educational opportunities and / or training; (e) access to information on reproductive health. The action plan will cover a period of 5 years (2016-2020) and was developed with the participation of children from several provinces of the DRC. This plan will constitute the framework for all stakeholders, at all levels, to act on the problem of child marriage and to find lasting solutions to reduce the number of child marriages in the DRC.

A joint program of the European Union, the DRC, UNICEF, FAO and the German Cooperation is implemented. This innovative program called “Femmes et Hommes progressons ensemble” has been implemented since 2014 as part of the initiative to fight against gender violence through a holistic and sustainable approach in the DRC. This approach seeks to address root causes of gender-based violence in order to achieve sustainable results in the perception, the role and position of women and men in Congolese society.

Two DRC teenager are taking part in the African Girl Summit being organized from 24 to 27 November 2015 by the African Union in Lusaka, Zambia.

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For further information, please contact:

Patricia Nakell, UNICEF in Zambia +27 79 4955938 [email protected]
Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF New York, + 1 917 251 7670, [email protected]
Laurent Duvillier, UNICEF in Dakar, + 221 77 740 35 77, [email protected]
Patrick Slavin, UNICEF in Zambia, + 260 97 777 0616, [email protected]
Yves Willemot, UNICEF en RDC, + 243 81 88 46 746, [email protected]

About UNICEF
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