Conference

The Road to End Child Marriage in Africa

Year

2018
15.03.2018 - 15.03.2018

Location

New York, (view on map)
the road to end child marriage in africa.jpg

The governments of Malawi, Zambia and Iceland with UN Women and UNU-GEST hosted a side event during the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) ion New York. The governments of Malawi and Zambia have been lead champions at the continental and global levels in efforts to eradicate child marriage with demonstrable progress at the national and community levels, with traditional leaders playing a lead role within communities. Both countries have developed national strategies and launched campaigns to end child marriage (ECM) signalling political will at the highest level, which is critical for the promotion of women and girls and the achievement of the SDGs. The side event shed a light on the issue of child marriage, impacting girls in rural areas disproportionately in both countries, and how it is being successfully tackled through formal and informal structures. Presenters discussed the main challenges to an equal gender relation in rural areas of Malawi and Zambia and the effective means of ending child marriage. The event helped identify accomplishments, lessons earned and challenges in implementing strategies at country levels, including partners’ engagement and the critical role constitutional amendments play in this context.

Description

The Governments of Malawi, Zambia and Iceland in collaboration with UN Women and UNU-GEST convene a side event at the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), United Nations Headquarters, New York. Organized within the framework of the priority theme of the CSW62: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

 PROGRAMME

 

  • Welcome remarks - Dr Esmie Kainja Principal Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare (MOGCDSW), Malawi
  • Opening Remarks - Chair of the side-event Minister of Gender, Hon Jean Kalilani, MP, Malawi
  • Ending child marriage in Africa - Minister of Gender, Hon Victoria Kalima, MP, Zambia
  • Child marriage and impact on rural development - Ambassador Kristín Árnadóttir, Special Envoy for Gender Equality, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Iceland
  • Ending child marriage – A policy perspective - Dr Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, UN Women Regional Director for East and Southern Africa
  • Ending child marriage – example from Zambia - Ms Pumulo Mundale, Director, Gender Rights Protection, Ministry of Gender, ZambiA
  • Using the constitutional review process to ban child marriage- Mzati-Kidney Mbeko, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA)
  • Discussions and contributions from participants Kristjana Sigurbjörnsdóttir - UNU-GEST
  • Closing remarks -  Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, AU Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage

 

 BACKGROUND

 

A girl walks to schoolIn 2016, ending child, early and forced marriages was a central and pivotal issue in the negotiations for the Sustainable Development Goals as it related to addressing inhibiting and harmful practices that lie at the heart of patriarchy with inter-generational impacts on girls and women in their lifetime. 

The outcome of the negotiations was a stand-alone goal; SDG 5: Gender Equality, with a specific target 5.3 (Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation) and indicators 5.3.1 (Percentage of women aged 20-24 who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18) and 5.3.2 Percentage of girls and women aged 15-49 who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age group). These were set to measure progress aimed at eliminating such practices and thereby shifting social norms, advance women’s empowerment and development and further reducing inequalities based on gender, sex and age.

On 19 December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the UN Res 71/175 on child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) at its 71st session. The resolution was co-sponsored by Canada and Zambia, with sponsorship from more than 100 Member States.

Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday. In West and Central Africa, where child marriage is common (as is the case in most African countries), more than four in 10 girls were married before age 18. Although child marriage is slowly declining worldwide, if current trends continue, due to population growth, the total number of child brides will remain around 750 million in 2030. A third of them will be African.

At the African continental and/or sub regional levels, the normative framework for the elimination of child, early and forced marriages is robust and framed within the aspirations of Africa’s Agenda 2063 which provides the blueprint for development of the continent. There are at least 3 frameworks with relevant provisions that directly protect against the harmful practice:

  • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (article 21)
  • The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
    (article 6)
  • The African Youth Charter (article 8); The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (article 8)

To foster implementation of these frameworks, the African Union in 2014 launched a continental campaign to end child marriage at which point they appointed a Goodwill Ambassador: Mrs Nyaradzayi Gumbodvanda to promote the intentions of the campaign and a Special Rapporteur Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa on Ending Child Marriage.

In 2015, the African Union Summit adopted the Africa Common Position on Ending Child Marriage, which was followed by the hosting of the first Africa Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage. A Compendium of Child Marriage Laws in Africa has been developed with support from UN Women. UN Women Country Offices on the African continent have also been supporting national partners to advocate for the end of child marriage using various channels.

ACTIONS ON THE GROUND

 

Girls in SchoolMalawi is ranked number 13 among countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, with 42% of girls married by 18 years. Zambia has 31% national average of girls married before 18 years (UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2017).

The governments of Malawi and Zambia, for example, have been lead champions at the continental and global levels in efforts to eradicate child marriage, with demonstrable progress at the national and community levels, with traditional leaders playing a lead role within communities. Both countries have developed national strategies and launched campaigns to end child marriage. They also co-convened at the AU Summit and also at the United Nations General Assembly through their Heads of State, a political dialogue on ending child marriage signaling that political will at the highest level is critical for the promotion of women and girls and thus the achievement of the SDGs.

On 18th September 2017 UN Women in partnership with UNICEF and UNFPA organized a High-level side event on Ending Child Marriage on the fringes of the UN General Assembly. UN Women Executive Director Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka with the presence of the President of Zambia Edgar Lungu, President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni and President of Malawi Peter Mutharika highlighted their commitment to accelerating actions to ECM in Africa.

Ending Child Marriage in Malawi

Much effort has been made to end child marriage in Malawi in the past several years. Of the more remarkable ones is the contribution of Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of Dedza District in the central region of Malawi. Holding informal authority over more than 900,000 people, she is known for her forceful action with respect to terminating child marriages (about 3,500 to date) and insisting on education for girls and boys in her district.

The approach of working with “mother groups/secret mothers”, teachers, parents, village development committees, religious leaders and non-government organizations has been widely praised. Currently, UN Women, CSOs and other donors in Malawi are working with traditional leaders elsewhere in the country to replicate the best practices of Chief Kachindamoto in reducing child marriages.

A network of female chiefs and wives of male chiefs has been formed to advance the work of community members in ending child marriages in Malawi and also in a bid to have a critical mass of traditional leaders to sustain the work going forward. Male chiefs had been engaged in ECM by the UN under the leadership of UNFPA and UN Women. The constitutional review process increasing the age of marriage from 16 to 18 years was realized in February 2017 in Malawi, a great milestone in the fight against child marriages.

Ending Child Marriage in Zambia

The highest prevalence rates of marriage in Zambia are slated at 60% in Eastern province followed by Luapula province with a rate of 50%. In response to the continued prevalence of the practice, Zambia launched the campaign to end child marriage in 2013. The number of actors at the national, district and local levels involved in addressing child marriage in recent years and in particular since the launch of the Campaign to End Child Marriage in 2013 has increased. The Government of Zambia has been working in a concerted effort with stakeholder that are providing both direct and indirect services to end child marriage and addressing underlying causes led by an inter-ministerial consortium chaired by the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs.

The UN response to ending child marriage in Zambia is through the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage (GPCM). It is a global partnership between UNFPA and UNICEF, piloting an approach to provide evidence for scale up across the country.

Objective is to support the implementation of the National Strategy on ending Child Marriages in line with other existing priorities and strategies (7th National Development Plan, Decentralization Policy).

Over 8,400 adolescents are participating in safe spaces to increase their means in making informed decisions while a total of 3,750 young people aged 10-19 and 20-24 will participate in safe spaces on Comprehensive Sexuality Education intended for out of school youth.

 OBJECTIVES AND OUTPUTS

 

The CSW62 theme: “Challenges and opportunities in achieving Gender Equality and empowerment of rural women and girls” is a crucial opportunity for global and African leaders to reflect on how to further accelerate efforts, renew existing partnerships and build new ones to end child marriage. To that end, the side event is aimed at achieving the following to objectives:

  • To shine a sport light on the issue of child marriage and how it is being successfully
    tackled in Malawi and Zambia through traditional and elected officials.
  • To make the efforts of Malawi and Zambia visible and accessible to a global audience by creating
    a space to focus on the critical role of constitutional amendments in ending child marriages,
  • To discuss effective/innovative means of ending child marriages and the main
    challenges to an equal gender relation in rural areas of Malawi and Zambia.
  • To identify accomplishments, lessons-learned and challenges faced by
    member states in implementing ECM at regional / country levels
  • To share and learn from experiences of other African champions
    and develop strategies to promote ECM
  • To share views on the ongoing African ECM Campaign
  • To increase awareness of participants on partners’ engagement / involvement in ECM