African leaders join forces in fighting child marriage

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Milagrosa Manuel and Aristida Alvarenco Morgado.Milagrosa is 18 years old and her son Aristida is 1year old.Milagrosa lives with her inlaws. There are 12 family members living on the property. Milagrosa is closest to the other 2 daughter-in laws.Her husband returns on weekend.from his job in a surrounding town. They met through her sister as she heard that her inlaws was looking for a wife for their son. Miligrosa was vunerable as her family had passed away. She was in Grade 7 when she left school. Aristida is her second child. Her first child passed away not from the same father.Her husband cared for the child.

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