The Islamic Republic of The Gambia Launches the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa
The Government of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia declared the month of June 2016, as the month on Ending child marriage. Under the leadership of the First lady of The Gambia, Her Excellency, Mrs. Zineb Yahya Jammeh, a nation wide sensitization campaign was launched, leading to the organization of school awareness campaigns and town hall meetings, with various community stakeholders joining forces in saying 'no to child marriages'. These social mobilization caravan was climaxed with the official national launch of the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in the Islamic Republic of The Gambia on 16 June 2016; being the 'Day of the African Child'.
The launch, which held at the Sheraton Hotel, Banjul, was attended by Her Excellency, the Vice President and Minister of Women Affairs, Her Excellency the First Lady of the of The Islamic Republic of The Gambia, the AU Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage in Africa, the Members of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice of The Gambia, Cabinet Ministers, Mayors and Governors of the different provinces and regions, Heads of UN and partner organizations, traditional and religious leaders, the youth and school children.
In her welcome remarks, Madam Fanta Bai Secka, the Director of Social Welfare informed that the Government, through a survey conducted in 2010 with the support of UNICEF, realized that child marriage was a big problem and it was the driver of many other problems like maternal and neonatal mortality in the country. The data from this survey revealed that 8.5 per-cent of girls of 15 years and below were being married off as child brides and another 46.5 per-cent of The Gambian girls were being married off before their 18th birthday.
On behalf of the children of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia, a member of the children's parliament, took the podium by asking all stakeholders present, "why do we still hold on o customs, traditions and beliefs that do more harm than good? It is sad that young children are meant to take up responsibilities greater than their age". She then called on the government to hasten the adoption of a law that criminalizes child marriages and sets the legal age of marriage at 18 years.
All traditional leaders and their spouses attending the campaign launch ceremony, through their Paramount Chief, denounced the practice of child marriage and committed their support to working with the government in eradicating child marriages by ensuring that it ceases to continue in their communities.
The UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa applauded the initiative by the government in making education for both primary and secondary levels free for all - nationwide; noting that this step ensures that all children are enrolled and girls in particular can stay in school longer. He called on all parents to support this effort by the government by 'allowing children live through their childhood, before motherhood'.
Building on the heart-wrenching testimonies of survivors of child marriage, the UNICEF country representative for The Gambia, called on all stakeholders to take advantage of this unique opportunity in reversing the trend and employing effective strategies to raise awareness on the harmful effects of child marriage while providing better opportunities for girls and women.
On behalf of the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, the Au Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage, Ms. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda congratulated the government of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia for taking the bold step of showing that its children really matter and by launching the campaign to end child marriage. She called on the government to ensure that the launch translates into active movements and campaigns, which should trickle down to communities and villages where child marriages continue to persist.
Declaring the campaign officially launched, the First Lady of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia, Her Excellency, Mrs. Zineb Yahya Jammeh affirmed her commitment to continue working with families and communities as the success of the campaign would rely more on the full commitment, participation and cooperation of families and communities.
The Islamic Republic of The Gambia is the 13th African Nation to launch the AU Campaign, following from the launches in Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, DRC, Madagascar, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sudan, Ghana and Eritrea.
About the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa:
The AU Campaign to End Child Marriage was launched at the continental level in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 29 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 in the protection and promotion of human rights; mobilizing continental awareness of the adverse socio-economic impact of child marriage; fostering social movement and social mobilization at the grassroots and national levels; and amplifying the capacity of non-state actors to undertake evidence based policy advocacy including the role of youth leadership through new media technology, monitoring and evaluation - amongst others.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).