Maternal and Child Health

It Takes A Village: Let’s Commit to End Child Marriage

By: Felogene Anumo, Advocacy Programme Associate. The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), @Felogene on Twitter

Last week, I joined thousands of maternal and child health advocates at the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Partners’ Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa. The gathering and robust discussions breathed life into the African Proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” The various stakeholders present called for ambitious and transformative commitments to realize the potential to be the ‘village’ that ends early, forced and child marriages in one generation, as this contributes to preventable newborn deaths and maternal mortality.

Until Death Do Us Apart: Facts and Figures

  • One in three girls in the developing world will be married by their eighteenth birthday. This can end their chance of completing an education and puts them at greater risk of isolation and violence.
  • One in seven girls in the developing world will be married before they are 15, some as young as five years old.
  • Every year, 70,000 girls die in labour because their young bodies just are not ready for childbirth. Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
  • Child brides face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. Girls ages 15 – 19 are two to six times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pledge to End Early, Forced and Child Marriage

To achieve a truly transformational post-2015 development agenda, governments and nations must commit to end early and forced marriage which contributes to driving girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. It demands partnerships across government, communities, cultural leaders and the civil society. It calls upon the various stakeholders to commit to playing their part in ending child marriage. This will happen by increasing public awareness on the crucial role that child marriage prevention and support to child brides plays in improving the health of millions of women and girls. This commitment must be followed by concerted political action at all levels. The world must not squander this opportunity!

It is simple.

If we want to improve the health of millions of women and children worldwide, we must prevent child marriage and support girls who are already married. Mrs. Graca Machel sums it up perfectly by stating, “Traditions are man-made, and traditions can change. More importantly, harmful traditions like child marriage MUST change.”

Watch: Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and Graça Machel speak out against #childmarriage

Read: 5 Reasons why ending child marriage can improve millions of women and girls’ health, Girls Not Brides

Cover Photo Credit: United Nations/Tobin Jones, Flickr Creative Commons

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Category: Maternal and Child Health
Tagged with: #Commit2Deliver    #PMNCHLive    adolescent girls    Child health    Child Marriage    end child marriage    Maternal Health

felogene

@felogene

I am woman of power, substance, positive influence, strength and meaning. I am taking on the world..to guarantee an equal world for girls and women and progress for all. I am the African Dream!

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  • I was just in Ethiopia on a International Reporting Project trip on women and children and I was amazed how prevalent early marriage still is despite the fact it is illegal. Many girls marry in their early teens and are having babies well before 16. A lot has to do with education and culture as many (85%) of the population live in rural places where there really are no opportunities for girls and women. Great piece and in case you haven’t heard, ONE.org just launched their women and girls site today! Check it out.

    • Thank you for your comment. I totally agree that it will take more than just proper legislation to end child marriage. A lot of commitment is required especially on education and promoting positive cultures are some of the avenues. My organisation FEMNET is doing some work on sensitizing cultural and religious gatekeepers to end harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage. I will be writing something on that especially the successes of the project.

      P.S: I have checked out ONE.org site and I have joined the global movement. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thanks for your response. I am glad to hear about your work. It takes a lot of time to change cultural ideals. So glad you and your organization are working to help young girls and build them a better future.

  • Thank you for your comment. I totally agree that it will take more than just proper legislation to end child marriage. A lot of commitment is required especially on education and promoting positive cultures are some of the avenues. My organisation FEMNET is doing some work on sensitizing cultural and religious gatekeepers to end harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage. I will be writing something on that especially the successes of the project.

    P.S: I have checked out ONE.org site and I have joined the global movement. Thanks for sharing.