Despite challenges, child marriage rates are falling as a result of local action in African countries, says UNICEF.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) - Ghana has launched an African Union Campaign to end child marriage, the African Union Commission said in a press release on Monday.
Ghana has become the 11th member state to launch a national campaign to end child marriages. The AU Campaign to End Child Marriage was launched at the continental level in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014, during the Conference of Ministers of Social Development.
The campaign is aimed at ending child marriage by means of supporting and advocating legal and policy actions for the protection and promotion of human rights, by mobilizing continental awareness of the adverse socioeconomic impact of child marriage, among other strategies.
During a ceremony in Accra, Ghana’s capital, President John Dramani Mahama said, “Child marriage is the most obnoxious practice of the 21st century and a total violation of the rights of children, especially the girl-child”.
The launch of the campaign took place on the margins of the 7th African Conference on Sexual and Health Rights hosted by the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), the press release said.
“In Ghana, despite the legal age of marriage being 18 for both girls and boys, 21 percent of Ghanaian girls are married before they reach the age of 18 years, with rates amounting to as high as 50 percent in the northern part of the country,” the release said.
It said, “Alarmingly, girls can marry as young as 16 with the consent of their parents”.
Several African ministers in charge of social development, along with representatives from UN agencies and civil society organizations and survivors of child marriage, took part in the AU campaign.
Experts warn that if nothing is done within the next decade, 14.2 million girls under 18 years of age will get married each year. If this trend continues, they say, the number of African mothers under 15 will rise from 2 to 3 million by 2030.
Despite the challenges, child marriage rates are declining as a result of local action in African countries, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) said.