Ministers tasked with gender and children’s affairs from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries have made a common position against child marriage in the region, a release has said.
According to a release from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja, the ministers also made a political declaration during a one-day ministerial meeting held recently in Abuja, Nigeria.
Liberia’s Deputy Minister for Gender and Child Protection Mrs. Lydia-Mai Sherman and her West African counterparts witnessed the adoption of the ECOWAS Child Policy and its Strategic Action Plan (2019-2023).
At the meeting, which was held on January 25, 2019, the regional ministers resolved “to promote the retention of all children in formal and/or alternative quality education systems up to the age of 18 in a compulsory and progressively free manner.”
According to the ECOWAS communication, the ministers urged the inclusion of “gender-sensitive educational policies and programs that address issues of gender stereotyping, gender-based violence and child marriage.”
In order to ensure that the rights of children are protected, the ministers also stressed the need for cooperation on all levels (regional/national) to mobilize financial and technical support for planning, implementing laws and policies, monitoring and evaluation, as well as accountability for measures taken to end child marriage, the release quotes the communication as saying.
Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, reiterated the Commissions’ commitment to prioritizing, mobilizing and allocating the necessary resources to address the multi-faceted issues affecting children in West Africa.
Dr. Jagne said that child marriage is a good example of problems that persist in West Africa: “Available data shows the prevalence of child marriage in ECOWAS to be about 42 percent among girls and three percent among boys,” she said.
Mohamed Fall, representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), enthused that with the adoption of the ECOWAS Strategic Framework for strengthening child protection systems and the update of the ECOWAS Child Policy, ECOWAS is emerging at the forefront of African institutions that promote and protect the rights of the child.
The meeting ended with the ministers adopting the reviewed ECOWAS Child Policy and Strategic Action Plan as well as the roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage, which will be submitted to Council of Ministers and subsequently to ECOWAS’ Authority of Heads of States and government for approval, the release said.