United against child marriage
On Human Rights Day, we celebrate the united voices calling for an end to child marriage across the African continent.
The video above, created by UN Women in Zambia and Malawi, features Camfed Zambia’s executive team, staff and alumnae adding their powerful voices to those of girls, young women, and male and female influencers and policy makers. As key advocacy partners planning and participating in the First African Girls’ Summit to End Child Marriage in Lusaka this November, Camfed and its CAMA alumnae shared their experience and leadership in preventing child marriage and teenage pregnancy, and returning girls to school.
The summit provided a major platform for the African Union campaign launched in 2014 with the objective of encouraging governments across the continent to act with urgency in ending child marriage – a practice which, while sometimes seen as the only road out of poverty for individuals, perpetuates the cycle of poverty within communities, leads to violence against girls and women, and denies them their basic human rights.
Research indicates that across sub-Saharan Africa each year of early marriage reduces the probability of a girl completing secondary school by approximately four percentage points. It is not surprising, therefore, that the countries with the highest levels of child marriage are also among the countries with the greatest gender disparities in secondary school enrollment. All too often, low educational attainment is both a cause and consequence of child marriage, as girls with less access to education are more likely to marry early, and early marriage ends a girl’s schooling prematurely. As well as being a major cause of school drop outs, early pregnancy and child marriage often lead to unacceptably high maternal mortality rates, increased risk of HIV, and domestic violence.
Education: The human right from which all others follow
Camfed Zambia has 15 years of experience supporting girls in the poorest communities to go to school, offering an alternative to early marriage. Camfed prevents child marriage in rural Africa by working with communities, graduates, donors, and all those with authority over girls’ lives – together rallying the resources to support girls to access secondary school, stay in school, concentrate on their studies, and succeed.
Critically, Camfed also supports young women in the transitional period after school, opening up new economic and leadership pathways through the CAMA alumnae network – with access to health, business, financial and wellbeing training; seed money grants; leadership training; and further education opportunities. CAMA members are now leading the charge to mentor and protect other girls from becoming child brides or teenage moms, and returning young mothers to school.
“Education should be free for all,” says CAMA member Christine, “because I think it’s a human right. Each and every person deserves the right to be educated, and to be at school.” At the First African Girls’ Summit to End Child Marriage, Camfed’s executive team was joined by more than ten CAMA members, who have lived poverty and understand the circumstances that pressurize young girls into early marriage or motherhood. They were able to share their unique perspectives, voices, and stories of leadership in stopping the practice within their communities.
Camfed is a member of the Girls not Brides global partnership, the Network to End Child Marriages, and the Project Coordinating Committee in Zambia, working closely with the Ministry of General Education; the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs; the Ministry of Gender; and the Ministry of Youth. “We bring robust evidence in terms of what works to end child marriages,” says Regina Lialabi, National Director, Camfed Zambia. Advocating to end early pregnancy, child marriage, and gender-based violence, Camfed shares best practice and research to inform joint action, policies and legislation.
“Not just on International Human Rights Day, but every day, we must join forces to end child marriage, early pregnancy, and violence against girls and women,” says Camfed’s Dorothy Kasanda. “We’ve supported in Zambia over 200,000 girls that are in school, that are coming out of school, that are engaged, and speaking against this vice, and helping other young girls and women not to fall into the trap. As long as we are empowering them, we are winning. And we will win.”