A renewed push against child marriage

ECOWAS First ladies have renewed their commitment to accelerate efforts to end child marriage and promote girls’ education in the region.

By Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro
Renewed commitment
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane

09 July 2019

NIAMEY (Niger), 7thJuly 2019–"We are firmly committed to supporting all local, national and regional initiatives to end child marriage, promote girls’ education and empower women and girls, the guarantee for harmonious and inclusive development." 

First Ladies from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) made this commitment by signing "the Niamey Declaration of ECOWAS First Ladies: Call to End Child Marriage and to promote the Education and empowerment of Girls", on the occasion of the event organized by the First Lady of Niger, H.E Dr. Lalla Malika, on the sidelines of the African Union Summit.

Speaking at the ceremony, H.E. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of Niger and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, commended all the First Ladies for the different programmes they are implementing in their countries. 

The best tool to fight early marriage is for young girls to be retained in school.

‘Child Marriage is a scandal. We must stop it. Marrying a 12 year old girl is pedophilia.” H.E. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane

H.E. Issoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger

‘Child Marriage is a scandal. We must stop it. The best tool to fight early marriage is for young girls to be retained in school.  We cannot develop a country pushing aside fifty percent of its population” he stated. 

'"No, we will no longer stand for this inhumane and degrading treatment of girls. We won't achieve sustainable development if we don’t put an end to child marriage in Africa' said H.E Dr. Lalla Malika, First lady of the Republic of Niger.

Apart from signing the declaration, one of the highlight of the meeting was an interactive Panel Discussion, which was chaired by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.

He highlighted that 1 in 6 girls are married before 18 in Africa. This means they don't have the opportunity to go to school. "The situation is critical as it affects the GDP of the Region because of out-of-school girls who cannot play their role as actors of development.” 

He called for sensitization at community and grassroots level, taking advantage of religious and traditional institutions as major stakeholders in the campaign.

"I was born of a woman, you were born of a woman, so why do we deny women economic opportunity? The place for young girl's is at school, we need to keep girls at school. Let's work together to protect girl's rights' Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) stated.

Renewed commitment
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane

Ngashi Ngongo, UNICEF Executive Director Representative at the event 

'Young girls in Africa must feel protected and empowered to take their own decisions. Ending child marriage is all of us responsibility."

Speaking on behalf of the UNICEF Executive Director, Ngashi Ngongo said 'Young girls in Africa must feel protected and empowered to take their own decisions. Ending child marriage is all of us responsibility." 

"This is an issue I am personally engaged for. I was born of a woman married before 18. She didn't even have an opportunity to finish primary school. So she fought to make sure all her children were educated." He concluded.

Putting an end to child marriage is a focus of UNICEF’s work in Niger. Working with communities, families, governments and partners, UNICEF helps identify and address the social norms and economic and structural factors that contribute to the persistence of child marriage.

Other members of the panel were, Ms Hannah S. Tetteh, who represented the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Madam Amina J. Mohammed, and Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, among others.

Speaking on behalf of the UNICEF Executive Director, Ngashi Ngongo said 'Young girls in Africa must feel protected and empowered to take their own decisions. Ending child marriage is all of us responsibility."   "This is an issue I am personally engaged for. I was born of a woman married before 18. She didn't even have an opportunity to finish primary school. So she fought to make sure all her children were educated." He concluded.  Putting an end to child marriage is a focus of UNICEF’s work in Niger. Work
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane