This is according to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in Zambia yesterday. The report also shows Africa will surpass South Asia as the region with the highest number of women aged between 20 and 24, married as children.
“Child marriage generates norms that have become increasingly difficult to exterminate – norms that undermine the value of our women,” said African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“Through greater awareness, teamed with a collaborative approach, the effects of child marriage can be eradicated.” Across Africa, the percentage of young women who were married as children has dropped from 44% in 1990 to 34% today.
“Because Africa’s total population of girls is expected to rise from 275 million today to 465 million by 2050, far more ambitious action is needed – as even a doubling of the current rate of reduction in child marriages will still mean an increase in the number of child brides. Progress has also been deeply inequitable. The likelihood that a girl from the poorest quintile would be married as a child is as strong today as it was 25 years ago,” stated the report.
“Child brides are less likely to finish school, more likely to be victims of violence and become infected with HIV. Children born to teenage mothers have a higher risk of being stillborn, dying soon after birth and having low birth weight. Child brides often lack the skills needed for employment,” according to the report.
“The sheer number of girls affected underlines the urgency of banning the practice,” said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.