African leaders and others meeting at the First African Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage in Africa have agreed on an action plan with a view to eliminating child marriage by 2030.
Those attending the meeting in Lusaka, Zambia at the end of November, included First Ladies from African States, national governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations, young people and traditional and religious leaders. The hard work is now starting towards meeting this commitment to end child marriage and other harmful practices across the continent.
Plan International’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, attended the conference – organised by the African Union and the government of Zambia – alongside teams from the our Zambia, Mali, Malawi and Niger offices among others, to drum home Plan International’s stance.
Education key to stopping early marriage
Mr Angerer called for quality education for girls to be prioritised in the new plan. He said:
“It is essential that we promote education and encourage dialogue if we want to change social norms and attitudes that perpetuate child marriage. Education is one of the most significant factors for delaying the age that girls marry. Governments must ensure schools are accessible, inclusive and safe, with good quality teaching materials, to enable more girls to attend and stay on in school.”
He further added that evidence shows that if a girl completes secondary education, then child marriage is delayed.
African Union member states have now been asked to put funding in place and ensure comprehensive, fully-resourced national action plans are followed if targets are to be met.
Minimum age for marriage
Member states are also being urged to establish and enforce legislation setting the minimum age for marriage as 18, in line with international human rights treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The draft outcomes document, developed during the summit will now be further considered and endorsed at an upcoming session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government set to take place in 2016.