African leaders join forces in fighting child marriage

DAKAR — African political leaders, activists, and local chiefs joined forces yesterday to commit to ending child marriage in West and Central Africa, the region with the highest child marriage rate in the world.

More than a third of girls in the region are married under the age of 18, with the rate over 50% in six countries and up to 76% in Niger.

Driven by factors including poverty, insecurity and religious tradition, marrying off girls once they reach puberty or even before is a deeply ingrained social custom in much of West and Central Africa. The practice hampers global efforts to reduce poverty and population growth and has negative impacts on women’s and children’s health, educational achievements, and earnings, the World Bank has said.

The conference in Senegal’s capital Dakar, which included government, civil society and religious representatives from 27 countries, was the first gathering of its kind to address child marriage in the region. — Reuters

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