OUAGADOUGOU, 5 July 2019. Burkinabe hip-hop legend Smarty is joining the fight against child marriage as a spokesman for UNICEF’s campaign “Don’t call me Madam”. The artist has written a powerful song inspired by the story of a girl who approached him via social networks. Her story related the bleak reality of child marriage.
“Shadow of the night” describe a girl in a wedding dress, adorned with jewelry and surrounded by a crowd eager for the ceremony. The 40-year-old rapper had one goal: to raise public awareness, but not to shock.
“All of us have relatives who have experienced this and have mothers of friends who have not chosen their husbands. Several generations were born from forced marriages in which women found some form of stability. So it's a sensitive issue and you have to deal with it with a lot of respect and tact," says Smarty.
In Burkina Faso, one in two girls (52%) is married before the age of 18, and one in 10 (10%) before the age of 15. Burkina Faso has the fifth highest child marriage prevalence rate in the world despite being prohibited before the age of 17. Burkina Faso’s First Lady has been advocating with UNICEF to change the legal age to 18.
“The commitment against child marriage must be without compromise because this practice not only destroys the girls and boys who suffer from it but also rips the social fabric, well-being and prosperity of the entire society," said Dr. Anne Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso.
“We must use all our strength to fight this problem. Art, especially music, is a powerful tool that can reach people's minds and hearts,” she continued.
Child marriage contributes to a cycle of poverty perpetuated from generation to generation. Child brides are more likely to drop out of school and become victims of domestic violence, to be infected with HIV/AIDS and to die of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Children of teenage mothers also pay the toll as they are at greater risk of stillbirth, death immediately after birth, or low birth weight.
Smarty also explains that “to tackle this phenomenon, we must reach the elders, speak their language, use proverbs to trigger a change in their minds. I wrote this song so that they could think ‘This little girl, she could be my daughter’,”.
UNICEF Burkina Faso is collaborating with the Government and civil society to eliminate child marriage. The song’s release marks the launch of a national caravan tour to raise awareness about the issue. It will stop in five cities across the country where Smarty and local artists will sing to support this cause.
Every two seconds, a girl is married somewhere in the world, even before she reaches the physical or emotional maturity that is needed to become a wife or mother. Without change, the number of child brides is expected to double by 2050, and Africa will be the region with the highest number in the world.
To find out more about UNICEF and its work, please visit: https://www.unicef.org/bfa/french/
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.