ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE IN AFRICA

Friday 19 June 2015

By Wangari Karuoya

The Day of the African Child was marked on the 16th of June as it always is with  pomp and color as the children held a rally in Marsabit county and an official launch in Migori county. As the Continent marked the day, Save the Children congratulated the Ministry of Labour, Social Development and Services, the Department of Children Services and the National Council for Children Services for working very closely with Civil Society and the public in general in an effort to promote and protect the rights of children in Kenya.

Ibrahim Alubala, the Child Rights Governance technical specialist at Save the Children reminisced on the day saying, “It is important to note that the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) began marking the Day of the African Child in 1991 in memory of the Soweto uprising in  South Africa during the apartheid regime, where several students took to the streets on 16th June 1976 to protest against the poor quality of education besides demanding to be taught in their own language. The African Union (AU), has since used the day not just to celebrate the African child, and commemorate the brutality that was visited to the demonstrating children in South Africa, but also to reflect on issues that stifle the enjoyment of rights by the African child.”

This year, the Committee will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the adoption of the Charter with the view of reinforcing State parties commitment to child rights and examining the main achievements in the implementation of the Charter. In 2015, the theme of the Day of the African Child is “25 years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Africa”.

“The Charter establishes an institutional framework (The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child) to monitor the implementation of the rights and welfare of the child in the continent besides advising State parties on the same.” He added.

The phenomenon of child marriage is rampant in Africa. The continent records the 2nd highest rates of child marriage in the world after South Asia. In sub- Saharan Africa, the incidence rates are above the global average of 34%.

The practice of child marriage thrives on the massive gender inequalities due to societal differentiation between males and females based on economic status, traditional norms, religion among others. The rising cost of living and high poverty levels the prevalent negative harmful cultural and social practices and the weak enforcement of laws at the national level.