Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Marriage (CME) are harmful practices deeply rooted in traditional cultures and underpinned by gender inequality and poverty. Despite resolutions of the United Nations and pan-African organisations, as well as national laws criminalizing FGM in most African countries, these practices remain widespread in the continent.
According to the African Union, child marriage is a customary, religious or legal marriage of any person under the age of 18. It occurs before a girl or boy is physically and psychologically ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood.
More than 200 million women and girls continue to suffer the effects of FGM worldwide and in Africa, according to current estimates, 50 million girls are at risk of being victims by 2030. Worldwide, about 1 in 4 women are married before the age of 18.
While data from 47 countries show that in general the median age of first marriage is gradually increasing, the increase rate remains slow overall. While 48% of women aged 45-49 were married before the age of 18, this figure has only dropped to 35% for women aged 20-24.
Child marriages remain especially a reality for millions of children (especially girls) across Africa, which has the second highest rate of child marriages in the world after South Asia, with the devastating consequences this can have on their education, health and future prospects.
West and Central Africa, in particular, closely follows South Asia with two in five (41%) girls marrying before the age of 18. Cumulatively, the frequency of child marriages in sub-Saharan Africa is above the global average of 34%. Reports indicate that 39% of girls in this region are married before their 18th birthday, 13% before their 15th birthday. The statistics can be alarming, but some countries south of the Sahara are able to curb the phenomenon, either in rural or urban areas, or both. At least 12 countries have reduced the rate of child marriage by 10% or more.
In some African countries, mobilizations have helped to reduce the prevalence rates of FGM and CM. However, despite the favourable legal environment, the impact of laws is often hindered by harmful traditional practices and religious beliefs held by religious and/or community leaders whose influence weighs more heavily than the bans imposed by the States.
However, significant political progress has been made in recent years. The 32nd Summit of heads of State and Governments of the African Union, held on 10 and 11 February 2019 in Addis Ababa, adopted the decision to "Galvanise Political Commitment towards the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation".
Similarly, the 2nd African Girl's Summit held by the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS in Accra, Ghana, from 23 to 24 November 2018, condemned child marriages and FGMs. These decisions are important, but the elimination of FGMs and CM requires a radical change in community beliefs and attitudes, as well as policies and investments.
To build on these achievements, the Government of Senegal and the Government of The Gambia are co-organizing, in collaboration with the Big Sisters Movement and the NGO Safe Hands for Girls, the 1st African Summit on FGM and CM.
This Summit, scheduled for 16, 17 and 18 June 2019 in Dakar, will involve heads of State and Governments, the technical and financial partners, religious and traditional leaders, civil society organisations, women survivors and youth organisations whose influence is already helping to reduce the prevalence of these two harmful practices.
Translate into action the commitment of governments, religious leaders, traditional leaders, survivors, CBOs, the media, youth organizations and civil society to contribute to the elimination of FGM and CM by 2030.
SO 1: Share and capitalize on the experiences and good practices noted in each country;
SO 2: Encourage States to create a legal framework conducive to the elimination of FGM and CM by 2030;
SO 3: Develop innovative strategies for the elimination of FGM and CM through concrete actions with grassroots communities.
R1: Participants from 16 countries shared their experiences and capitalized on their good practices on FGM and CM.stent répandues dans le continent.
R2: A favourable legal framework for the elimination of FGM and CM is created by States by 2022
R3: Innovative strategies for the elimination of FGM and CM are developed and their implementation planned through concrete actions with grassroots communities.