Theme of the Day of the African Child 2015: “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”
The Government of Uganda launched its first ever National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy as the country joined the rest of Africa to celebrate the Day of the African Child (DAC) yesterday.
Developed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development with technical and financial support from UNICEF, the strategy outlines approaches and interventions that will end child marriage and teenage pregnancy in Uganda.An adolescent girl and survivor of child marriage in Kayunga, attends the Day of the African Child 2015 commemoration event in Bbaale Sub-county, Kayunga District
“The strategy has been developed because for the last 30 years, there has been no change in the average age at first marriage which, in spite of multiple interventions, has remained at 17.9 years,” says Ms. Evelyn Anite, State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs.
With 49 per cent or nearly three million women of all20-49 year old Ugandan women married by the age of 18 and 15 per cent (around 900,000 women) married by the age of 15, child marriage remains a serious issue in Uganda.
Observed since 1991, the DAC provides governments, development partners and communities an opportunity to renew their on-going commitments towards improving the plight of children. The theme this year is “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Time to take action to End Child Marriage in Uganda.” and the main commemoration took place in Bbaale Sub County, Kayunga district.Mr. Jaya Murthy, UNICEF Chief of Communication, speaks at the Day of the African Child 2015 commemoration event in Bbaale Sub-county, Kayunga District
The prevalence of child marriages is highest in Northern Uganda at 59%, followed by Western region (58%), Eastern region (52%), East central (52%), West Nile (50%), Central (41%), South west (37%), and lowest in Kampala (21%).
While child marriage – defined as marriage before the age of 18 – applies to both girls and boys, the practice is far more common among girls, especially those in rural areas.
Child marriage affects all aspects of a child’s life and is a violation of their rights. The practice exposes girls to health risks associated with adolescent/early pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, which negatively impact on their physical and psychological wellbeing. More often, infants born to adolescent mothers have a higher risk of being born premature, dying soon after birth or having a low birth weight, which subsequently affect the infants’ health, physical and cognitive development.
Apart from the violation of health rights, child marriage disrupts children’s education and exposes them to violence and abuse.Hon. Muruli Mukasa, Minister of Gender Labour and Social Development officially launches the “National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy,” at the Day of the African Child 2015 commemoration event in Bbaale Sub-county, Kayunga District
“While a number of national and international legal instruments have been put in place and ratified by the Government of Uganda to protect the fundamental right of children to not be married before the age of 18, including the national Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), more needs to be done to ensure they are fully adhered to,” says Ms. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative.
To effectively launch the Africa-wide campaign in Uganda, a two week media campaign dubbed #EndChildMarriageUG will be run on NTV. The campaign is intended to raise awareness on the causes and consequences of child marriage in Uganda, particularly its impact on adolescent girls.
Uniquely, the campaign will call for the public to share their stories of actions taken to end child marriage within their communities and feature some of the most compelling and inspiring stories at the end of June.
Last year, in close partnership with the Ministry of Gender, UNICEF launched the national child helpline SAUTI 116 a platform that is utilised by the public to report all forms of violence and abuse against children. According to statistics in 2014, the helpline received 166 child marriage cases, of which 92 were followed and successfully closed. Since the beginning of this year, 131 cases have been received with 33 responded to and concluded.
The campaign to end child marriage has been launched
In addition, using U-report, a free SMS-based system supported by UNICEF, young people across the country have reported cases of child marriage within their communities. In January 2015, 13,000 U reporters across the country said child marriage is a big issue in their communities. They mentioned a number of measures underway in their communities to prevent child marriage; sensitisation through the media, monitoring by the district and local governments, initiatives by non-governmental/community based organisations, support from religious and cultural leaders and peer support and youth networks.
Ending child marriage not only breaks an intergenerational cycle of poverty but also allows girls to participate more fully in society thereby contributing towards the development of their country.
The Day of the African Child
The Day of the African Child is commemorated every year on 16 June by Member States of the African Union (AU), and its Partners (in accordance with Resolution CM/Res.1290 (XL). This occasion is firstly a commemoration to recall the 1976 uprising s in Soweto, when a protest by school children in South Africa against apartheid –inspired education resulted in the public killing of these unarmed young protesters by police officials. The DAC further presents an opportunity to focus on the work of all actors committed to the rights of children on the continent, to consolidate their efforts in addressing the obstacles for realizing these rights.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.