During a busy sunny a Friday afternoon at the UNICEF pavilion at the 2nd African Unions Girls summit , UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Fatoumata Ndiaye sits with about 13 young girls representing various parts of the continent in an intimate discussion on issues pertaining to child marriage, traditional harmful practices and results of the U-Report polls on child marriage.
The 2nd African Girls summit on ending child marriage is under the theme, “Enough With the Silence,” urging young girls across Africa to add their voices to the discourse to bring an end to child marriage on the African continent
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40 per cent of girls are forced into marriages before attaining the age of 18. A vast number that cannot be ignored. The summit was attended by First Ladies from Ghana, Niger, Liberia and Sierra Leone and young people from 30 countries in Africa. The summit took place from 23-24th November preceded by a Youth Pre- Summit from 21 – 22 November 2018.
The discussion at the pavilion was moderated by Erica Ehiameh, a U-Report champion who shared the child marriage poll in a presentation before joining the group discussions. From the polls, 87% of the respondents disagreed with girls marrying before their 18th birthday.
The consensus through the discussion was that the results show a good trend in Ghana. However, Fatoumata Ndiaye stressed the need to ensure that every person comes on board in the fight against child marriage.
She said, “it is true that the results show that largest number of respondents being against child marriage yet the hardest group to convert will be the last 13% percent. We need to intensify our action to bring all people on board to eradicate child marriage in Africa.”
During the engagement, 26-year-old child marriage survivor from Cameroon shared her agonizing experience as a child bride who was married off at age 14 and got pregnant at age 15 to a man who could have been three times her age.
Her account was stirring- quite emotional
She said, “my father gave me out for marriage when I was so young. I did not even know the man I was to marry till the day of the wedding. The man raped me and when I got sick I was not taken to the hospital. I was beaten badly till I eventually fled the marriage- for which reason my father disowned me.”
The girls shared wonderful ideas on how to end child marriage in Africa. At the end of the discussions the girls shared their hopes and aspirations for girls across the continent with regards to child marriage. Below are a few:
“Child Marriage is not good, I hope it stops,” Linda Landzo.
“Education is what matters,” Akua Amina.
“I hope that every child obtains equal education. Every child should know the benefits of education. Any child who is forced to marry at a very tender age should run away,” Joyce Morna.
“I wish every child is protected and not abused,” Ruth Obeng.
UNCEF West Africa Deputy Regional Director, Gilles Fagninou and UNICEF Ghana Country Representative, Anne-Claire Dufay joined Fatoumata Ndiaye to engage the young girls who were mostly 15-19 years.