High level meeting on accelerating progress on ending child marriage in Africa

18 September 2017, UNICEF House, New York

18 September 2017

In the context of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, along with the Government of Canada, UNICEF, UNFPA, and UN Women, will host a High Level Meeting at which African Heads of State, development partners and donor countries will agree to speed up progress to end child marriage in Africa.

Facts: Child Marriage in Africa

  • Across Africa, 125 million girls and women alive today were married or in a union before their 18th birthday
    o 1 in 3 young women in Africa were married before age 18. For approximately 1 in 10 this was before their 15th birthday.
    o Levels of child marriage vary, from 2 per cent in Tunisia to 76 per cent in Niger.
    o Prevalence is above 30 per cent in Central, Southern, and Eastern Africa and above 40 per cent in Western Africa. In Northern Africa it is one-third the level in the sub-Saharan region.
  • 8 of the 10 countries in which child marriage is most common are in Africa. In descending order by percentage, the 10 are: Niger (76); Central African Republic (68); Chad (67); Bangladesh (59); Mali (55); Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Guinea (52); Mozambique (48); and India (47).
  • There has been progress. Today seven countries have levels of child marriage below 10 per cent:  Tunisia, Algeria, Swaziland, Djibouti, South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia, compared with only one – Namibia – 25 years ago.
  • There has been no decline in Central African Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso and South Sudan in the last 25 years.
  • The current rate of progress is not enough to achieve the SDG target of ending child marriage by 2030. At this rate, ending child marriage in Africa would take a century.

Quote attributable to UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi, who will represent UNICEF at the High Level Meeting.

“Child brides face both immediate and lifelong consequences. Adolescence provides a unique window of opportunity to prevent this injustice by changing the social norms that rob children of their childhoods, and building the political will required to end this practice, once and for all.”


Background: Child marriage globally

  • Around 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their eighteenth birthday.
  • Both boys and girls undergo child marriage, but the level among boys is about one-fifth that among girls.
  • Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15–19 in many low- and middle-income countries.
  • Infants born to adolescent mothers have a higher risk of being stillborn or dying soon after birth. They are also more likely to have low birth weight, which can have a long-term impact on their health and their physical and cognitive development.
  • Child marriage also curtails a girl’s chances of completing her education.
  • Child marriage exists in all countries, although it is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Within Goal 5, Target 5.3 aims for the elimination of all harmful practices. The target calls for elimination by 2030.

Photos from the event available at: https://weshare.unicef.org/Folder/2AMZIFI8NRL2

Press call: 12:30 p.m.

For photos or more information, please contact:

Rita Ann Wallace, UNICEF New York, 1-917-909-9542, rwallace@unicef.org

Media contacts

UNICEF Media Team
Tel: +1 212 303 7984


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