Globally, it is estimated that the number of child brides is at 650 million. The estimation includes girls below the age of 18 years who are married today and women who were married in childhood. While South Asia remain the first home to a huge number of child brides, Sub Saharan Africa stands at the second position with 115 million women married and or in union under 18 years, representing 18%.  Studies reveal that 12 million girls are married in childhood each year (UNFPA – UNICEF, 2019).[1]

Africa has the highest prevalence in the world of child marriage before 15 years with Niger’s rate of girls married before 18 years standing at 77% in 2019. The Central African Republic has a prevalence of 68% followed by Chad at 67% and it is estimated that the highest number of child brides in Africa live in Nigeria with a large number of 22 million.


With these glaring statistics on child marriage in Africa, the African Union launched a historic Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa (AU CECM) on the 29th of May 2014 during the 4th AU Conference of Ministers of Social Development, offering a Continental Model in Africa that calls for multi-sectoral coordination with clear national action plans, legislative reform to preserve human right against child marriage in national laws and policies, programmes as well as enhancing investments to support access to essential services such as Education, sexual and reproductive health as alternative to ending child marriage.

In addition, in 2017, the AU’s Specialized Technical Committee on Social Development, Labour and Employment called on member states to accelerate efforts to operationalize an AU high level Monitoring and Follow up Mechanism in order to assess progress on ending child marriage.

Furthermore, in 2018, the Peace and Security Council of the AU held an open session on ending child marriage in Africa and underlined the need for member states to develop a comprehensive multi-stakeholder, coordinated approaches and engage community and traditional leaders, government, law enforcement agencies, school leaders and teachers, health and social workers, CSOs, media and private sector. 

Despite adoption of the Campaign by up to 30 member states ( Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad , Cote d'ivoire , the Democratic , Republic of Congo, Egypt , Lesotho , Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania ,Mozambique , Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, The Gambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia , and Zimbabwe) , and other commitments towards treaties and international commitments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the African charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and SDG 5.3 to end child marriage by 2030, there are persisting challenges to achieving the elimination of harmful practices and gender inequality in Africa.

The African Union Commission (AUC) fully recognizes that child marriage is a violation of human rights and is driven by social norms, traditions and beliefs. To this effect, the AU is partnering with stakeholders at global, Continental, regional and national levels to implement programmes including initiatives such as the Spotlight Initiative which aims at supporting member states to accelerate the elimination of harmful practices namely child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation. the AUC Spotlight Initiative to Ending Child Marriage has also been engaging and effectively working on joint initiatives with partners such as the Spotlight Initiative with UNICEF, UNFPA, UNWOMEN and EU focusing on harnessing the respective strengths of multi-sectoral, multi-level partnerships which will support the acceleration of transformative change for the empowerment of girls and women in Africa; the Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend with World Bank– the project aims at advancing Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent health outcomes and promote girl’s education and reintegration at Regional level in Africa.

Additionally, the development of the AUC Accountability Framework on Eliminating Harmful Practices will serve as a strong catalyzer for oversight on Africa's legal and Human Rights commitments on girls and women, eliminating gender-based violence and harmful practices - particularly child marriage and female genital mutilation. The adoption of the Niamey Call to Action and Commitment on Eliminating child marriage and FGM by Member States during the 3rd African Girls Summit paved the landscape towards eliminating harmful practices.

Furthermore, the African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI) was commissioned by the African Union Commission (AUC) and UN Women in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The African Union Commission (AUC) Departments of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development provide technical support to this initiative which aims to train and empower young girls across Africa to become computer programmers, creators and designers, placing them on track to take up studies and careers in the information, communication and technology (ICT), education and coding sectors. The initiative implements strategies such as coding camps and mainstreaming ICT, coding and gender into the national curricula. Moreover, it promotes the implementation of national media campaigns involving role models and utilizes an on-line platform to enhance networking among the girls, trainers and mentors.


[1] Source: UNICEF global databases, 2020. Demographic data are from United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019, Online Edition. Rev. 1. Notes: For details on the calculation of girls and women married in childhood, see: United Nations Children’s Fund, Child Marriage: Latest trends and future prospects, UNICEF, New York, 2018. Estimates refer to population year 2019. Values below 2 million are rounded to the nearest hundred thousand; those above 2 million are rounded to the nearest million.


Messages AU Chairman

Messages African Union Goodwill Ambassador

Join the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa. Every Action Counts" Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda African Union Goodwill Ambassador

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