Senegal: 'One girl under-15 married every seven seconds' - says Save the Children

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - As the world marks the 11th International Day of the Girl Child, an international non-governmental organization that promotes children's rights, Save the Children,  has revealed that one girl under-15 is married every seven seconds.

Pointing out the scale of the threat posed by child marriage to education, health and children’s safety, Save the Children says "Girls as young as ten are being married – often to much older men – in countries including Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia."

A new report released by Save the Children (Every Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm), has ranked countries in an index from the best to worst country, based on child marriage, schooling, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and number of female parliamentarians.

Most African countries, such as Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia, which have high rates of child marriage, are at the bottom of the index while Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium are at the top.

“Child marriage starts a cycle of disadvantage that denies girls the opportunity to learn, develop and be children,” says Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children.

“Girls who marry too early often can’t attend school, and are more likely to face domestic violence, abuse and rape. They get pregnant and bear children before they’re physically and emotionally ready, which can have devastating consequences on their and their baby’s health.”

The report notes that girls in Sierra Leone are among the most likely in the world to be child mothers, the report says.  It adds:

- 28% of girls aged 15–19 have already had a child or are pregnant
- Teenage girls account for 40% of all maternal deaths in the country
- 109 girls are being forced to turn to transactional sex as an economic coping strategy, particularly in the wake of the Ebola crisis
- Young mothers are blamed, stigmatised and often excluded from their communities

Save the Children is working with the First Lady of Sierra Leone to tackle teenage pregnancy by encouraging powerful traditional leaders, including paramount chiefs and societal heads.

In Tanzania, the report says,

- 37% of women aged 20–24 were married before age 18
- In rural areas, some girls marry as young as 11 years old
- Tanzania also has one of the highest adolescent fertility rates in the world

To tackle the issue of child marriage, Save the Children is campaigning to end pregnancy testing in schools to ensure pregnant and married girls can remain in education and for improved sexual and reproductive health via the education system.

The report says in Nigeria, 40% of the poorest girls are married by 15, compared to 3% of the richest girls.

But in terms of the number of women representation in national institutions, Rwanda has the world’s highest percentage (64%) of women parliamentarians.

The "best" five African countries which appeared at the top 30 are Algeria (31st globally), Tunisia (33rd), Rwanda (49th), Namibia (72nd), and Egypt (83rd).

The report also reveals that Girls affected by conflict are more likely to become child brides, with many refugee families marrying off their daughters as a safety or coping mechanism.

It is recalled that the international community has pledged to end child marriage by 2030, but if current trends continue, the total number of women married in childhood will grow from more than 700 million today to around 950 million by 2030, and to 1.2 billion by 2050.
-0- PANA SSB/MA 11Oct2016

11 october 2016 15:45:30




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