Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action

Every year, about 14 million adolescent and teen girls are married, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. In 2012 UNICEF estimated that globally, almost 400 million women aged 20-49 (or 41% of the total population of women of this age) were married or entered into union while they were children (i.e., before 18 years old). It further noted that, although the proportion of child brides has generally decreased over the last 30 years, in some regions child marriage remains common, even among the youngest generations, particularly in rural areas and among the poorest. Among young women worldwide aged 20-24, around 1 in 3 (or 70 million) were married as children, and around 1 in 9 (or 23 million) entered into marriage or union before they reached 15 years of age. If the present trends continue, by 2030, the number of child brides marrying each year would have grown more than 14% annually from 14.2 in 2010 to 15.1 million.

Although the largest numbers of child brides are in countries of South Asia, countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa. Of the 41 countries world-wide with prevalent rate of 30% or more, 30 are from Africa. There is a correlation between poverty and child marriage. Girls from the poorest households are three times as likely to get married before age 18 as girls from the richest households. However, correlation does not always mean causation, – in contexts where the practice is almost universal, the level of education and location have found to be major determinants, above wealth. While poverty may be a factor, there are also two other important factors that drive child marriage:

  • Gender based violence and;
  • Gender discrimination.