Historic Africa-wide Campaign to end child marriage in Africa launched
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 29May 2014 –“We cannot down play or neglect the harmful practice of child marriage as it has long term and devastating effects on these girls whose health is at risk and at worst leading to death due to child birth and other complications,” says Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
“Child marriage concerns human rights, gender, health and culture and is a development issue which is complex, caused and maintained by a number of factors, such as poverty, gender based violence and gender discrimination, among others,” she said in her statement read on her behalf by Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the AUC Commissioner for Social Affairs at the continental launch of the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa, held on 29 May 2014, at the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The AUC Chairperson reaffirmed her unwavering commitment to ensure sustained political will and continuous coordination and harmonization of all efforts to achieve the desired goals.
Child marriage continues to affect millions of girls every year in Africa with the resultant outcome of high rates in maternal and child mortality; obstetric fistula, premature births, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and HIV and domestic violence. Girls continue to be married as children in Africa, with more than five and a half million women who are today in their early 20s married before they reached their 15th birthday.
Participants at the launch, who included African Ministers in-charge of Social Development, UN agencies, civil society organisations, experts, and survivors of child marriage, were informed that if nothing was done in the next decade, 14.2 million girls under 18 years will be married every year, which translates into 39,000 girls married each day. If this trend continues, the number of girls under 15 giving birth is expected to rise from 2 million to 3 million by 2030, in Africa. The costs of inaction, in terms of rights unrealized, foreshortened personal potential and lost development opportunities, far outweigh the costs of interventions.
Ms. Bineta Diop, the AUC Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security emphasized that educating girls, will help improve Africa’s socio-economic development and that no child’s education should be interrupted at any time because of marriage. She noted that the real cases of child marriage happen at the grassroots and all stakeholders must work to ensure that this campaign gets to the local communities.
Despite these challenges, child marriage rates are declining as a result of local action in African countries. “As we watch the rates of child marriage decline, we can expect to seemore girls in school for a longer time, more girls accessing health and protection services, less violence against women and girls, more qualified women participating in the labour force and more empowered women who are able to overcome poverty for themselves, their children and their family,”said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, while reaffirming UNICEF’s commitment to supporting the campaign.
“Child marriage remains a fundamental human rights violation and is a symptom of the prevailing gender inequalities all of us are fighting so hard to prevent,” he added, while also highlighting the existing pan-African momentum and partnership on ending child marriage.
On her part, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, confirmed support to the campaign, noting: “Ending child marriage will require unambiguous political commitment, visionary leadership, and support for grassroots advocacy to address many of the cultural practices and behaviors that place young women and girls at increased multiple health risks, including HIV.”
She noted that laws needed to be enforced against child marriage, including the enactment and enforcement of laws that raise the minimum age at marriage to 18.“It is therefore imperative to ensure holistic policy environment that supports and promotes human rights, builds capacity and empowers individuals, community stakeholders and organizations to change attitudes and the cultural and religious norms that perpetuate child marriage is critical,” she urged.
An important highlight of the launch was the naming of Ms. Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda as a Goodwill Ambassador for the campaign. MsGumbonzvanda is currently the General Secretary of the World YWCA. She is a trained human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe with extensive experience in conflict resolution and mediation, including 20 years’ experience on issues of women and children’s human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries.
The campaign was launched during the Conference of Ministers of Social Development, held under the theme, “Strengthening the African Family for Inclusive Development in Africa”and will aim at ending child marriage by: (i) supporting legal and policy actions in the protection and promotion of human rights, (ii) mobilizing continental awareness of the negative socio-economic impact of child marriage, (iii) building social movement and social mobilization at the grassroots and national levels; and (iv) increasing the capacity of non-state actors to undertake evidence based policy advocacy including the role of youth leadership through new media technology, monitoring and evaluation among others.
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Kenyan women unite to increase access to maternal and child health.
More than 100 leaders and representatives of women’s rights organizations from across Kenya came together on 24 March in Nairobi to discuss ways to stop new HIV infections among children by 2015 and improve the health of mothers in the country.
The women’s rights leaders meeting was co-organized by UNAIDS, UNDP, the National AIDS Control Council, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme and the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust. The event aimed to accelerate the momentum started by the First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta through the Beyond Zero campaign—an initiative to end mother-to-child transmission and AIDS-related maternal deaths in Kenya.
Speaking at the meeting, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle applauded the First Lady’s personal commitment and stressed that for UNAIDS, gender equality and human rights—including sexual and reproductive health rights—are non-negotiable elements to ensure effective HIV and health responses.
Government figures show that in Kenya AIDS-related illnesses account for one in five maternal deaths and 100 000 children under the age of 5 years died from preventable causes in 2012. According to WHO figures, Kenya currently dedicates 6% of its national budget—less than half of the 15% Abuja Declaration target—to the health sector.
“We need to leverage synergies across movements, bringing together the capacity and innovation of the AIDS response with movements to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls."
Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director
“Our involvement as the women’s movement is a game changer and will catalyse actions needed to bring the necessary changes and accelerate the achievement of the Beyond Zero campaign goals.”
Daisy Amdany, CRAWN Trust Executive Director
26 March 2014
Petitioning South African Government Step up for equality!
The Anti-Homosexuality Act signed by President Museveni on Monday, February 24, 2014 threatens people who engage in same sex acts with life imprisonment. It also threatens the work of organisations that seek to advance the health, rights and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act creates an environment of fear, threats of violence and increased discrimination towards sexual minorities in Uganda. With the publication of names of people, there is deep anxiety of increased attacks amongst the community of sexuality minorities..
We also note similar laws in countries, such as the recent Anti-Same Sex Marriage Act in Nigeria, which undermines our collective humanity and dignity.
Section 9 of the South African Constitution offers protection on the basis of sexual orientation and guarantees dignity and equality for all in South Africa. South Africa’s leadership on this issue is particularly important to realising equal rights for all in the region.
We call for the South African Government to:
• Issue a statement clarifying South Africa’s commitment to human rights for all and a foreign policy which promotes a human-rights based approach to minority sexual groups throughout Africa and the rest of the world;
• Commit our Embassy in Kampala to provide support to protect the safety, rights and dignity of all fellow Africans at risk on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; and
• Confirm South Africa as a safe haven and confirm its willingness to grant asylum to anyone facing persecution on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity.
Uganda’s President signs anti-gay bill into law
Obama Condemns Uganda’s Tough Antigay Measure.
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — President Obama on Sunday condemned a measure to criminalize homosexuality in Uganda, publicly warning the country’s president that such discrimination could harm its relationship with the United States.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signaled on Friday that he was likely to sign a bill that would punish the “the promotion or recognition” of same-sex relations with as much as life in prison.
“As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda,” Mr. Obama said in his statement.
The bill, Mr. Obama added, “will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda.”
“It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people,” the president said.
Document: Obama on Uganda’s Antigay BillFEB. 16, 2014
President Yoweri Museveni delayed signing a version of the bill last year, saying it was flawed.
Ugandan President Says He Will Sign Tough Antigay MeasureFEB. 15, 2014
Mr. Obama’s statement came as he was golfing at a private course in Rancho Mirage, near the Sunnylands estate in California where he was spending the weekend.
Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, who accompanied the president on his trip, announced that she had spoken “at length” with Mr. Museveni on Saturday evening to discourage him from signing the bill.
In a series of posts on Twitter Sunday morning, Ms. Rice said she “told him it will be a huge step backward for Uganda and the world.”
Under the proposed law, a first conviction could result in a 14-year prison sentence, and subsequent convictions of “aggravated homosexuality” could lead to a life term.
The bill passed by the Ugandan Parliament in December is a modified version of a 2009 proposal that included death sentences. It was withdrawn after an international outcry.
Mr. Obama’s statement did not limit criticism to Uganda, noting, “Tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria.”
Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was “deeply concerned” about Nigeria’s new anti-gay law. That measure would impose harsh penalties not only for people convicted of having same-sex relationships, but also for those participating in gay clubs and organizations.
Mr. Obama sent a delegation of prominent gay athletes, including the tennis champion Billie Jean King, to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, seen as a response to Russia’s ban on gay “propaganda.”
Obama on Uganda’s Antigay Bill
Malawi: Joyce Banda Forms Education Committee.
Blantyre — As one way of showing commitment towards the protection of a girl child in the country President Dr Joyce Banda has established a Special Committee on the Acceleration of Girls Education in Malawi.
The President disclosed this on Thursday at Sanjika Palace during an audience with High Level Task Force for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern Africa saying this committee will look at how to overcome traditional barriers to girls' education, such as early marriages and pregnancies.
The Head of State then called upon relevant authorities to hold the necessary consultations and lobbying to ensure that the country attain the right to support for the age of marriage in Malawi to be raised to at least 18 years for both boys and girls to give them time to acquire enough education before marriage.
"There is no question about my personal commitment to the raising of the marriage age. I am however aware that this is a delicate issue among some traditional leaders, conservative communities, faith leaders and some legislators.
"That is why, in my opinion, it is best that we do our homework by engaging all stakeholders and bring the bill to parliament at the right time for us to succeed," said the President Banda.
The president highlighted that there is so much that the country can achieve through working with traditional leaders who are guardians of traditional culture. She said the T/A's ability to mobilise support within their communities will be crucial in promoting and protecting girl child at a local level.
The president said she was very pleased to learn that some chiefs have already started taking big strides in promoting the girl child through the creation of a Declaration of Commitment to be signed by Paramount and Senior Chiefs.
"This declaration focuses on issues of the girl child in a holistic way, looking at education, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, early marriages, and HIV, while also taking advantage of the positive aspects of our culture and cultural ceremonies to support these efforts," delighted the head of state.
In her remarks leader of the High Level Task Force for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern delegation, Professor Sheila Tlou who is UNAIDS Regional Director commended President Dr Joyce Banda for her efforts in improving the welfare of the girl child education and her continued support to girls' education.
She however requested for the formation of a high level committee which will oversee the enactment of the marriage bill so that more girls should be able to complete their education before marriage.
BY YAMIKANI YAPUWA
1 NOVEMBER 2013
HIV and Sexuality Education: Time to Act Now with Young People in Eastern and southern Africa
The report brings together a wide range of data on education, HIV, sexual health and gender equality to paint a more detailed picture of the day-to-day realities of adolescents and young people living in 21 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The findings show that, despite important gains made in reducing the transmission and impact of HIV, there is still a long way to go. Every hour, 50 young people in this region become infected with HIV yet less than 40% of young people have adequate HIV knowledge. Unintended and adolescent pregnancy is a major issue affecting girls and young women with approximately one in five girls aged 17 having already had a child. Gender inequality is still widespread, and girls between the ages of 20 – 24 are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence.
The recommendations in the report are clear: adolescents and young people deserve better, and they need both the education and health sectors to work together and commit to taking bold action. Such bold action includes reviewing, and where necessary amending, policies or laws that that limit access to the education and health services that adolescents and young people need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Furthermore, countries need to deliver good quality, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education that starts at primary school and continues through secondary school. Youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services must be made widely available including commodities that will help prevent HIV and pregnancy, including condoms. Many countries provide some level of HIV or life skills education, but this is rarely comprehensive, or provided at an appropriate age. As one young woman quoted in the report says “Sexuality is not about sex. It is about your body, and what happens as you grow.” The report also concludes that gender equality must be prioritised in the delivery of education and health services to ensure that both boys and girls can achieve their full potential.
The report will be launched on 4 October 2013, in Johannesburg, South Africa by representatives of many of the collaborating partners including UNESCO, UNFPA, WHO and UNAIDS. The authors present a vision for the future of a young African, a global citizen of the future, who is healthy, resilient and socially responsible, who is an autonomous decision-maker with the capacity to reach his or her full potential and contribute to the development of their community, country and the region.
Prof. Sheila Tlou, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa and chairperson of the High Level Group providing leadership for the Young People Today initiative said, “As we approach 2015, it is time for urgent action by our governments, young people and civil society to re-affirm the rights of young people to a better future. We have a duty to make good quality HIV and sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services a reality for all.”
With the mobilization and advocacy efforts of UN partners, NGOs and young people, as well as political commitment from leaders, there is a shared sense of hope that the 21 countries in this region heavily affected by HIV can turn this vision into reality in the coming years.
- Read the full report: www.unesco.org/aids or www.youngpeopletoday.net
- UNESCO Comprehensive Sexuality Education webpages
3 October 2013
Unesco Education Sector
Africa Civil Society Statement on ICPD Beyond 2014.
The civil society organizations of Africa recognize African governments and development partners for the progress that has been made towards the realization of the commitments of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA). Since 1994 governments have formulated various policies to contextualize the ICPD PoA, and they have adopted various regional protocols to reinforce the ICPD and other development frameworks.In spite of the gains, there are marked deficiencies in implementation, and Africa has realized the least progress in most ICPD and related MDG indicators.We call upon African governments and development partners to urgently demonstrate political will and commitment to the ICPD agenda by mobilizing financial resources and enabling implementation of interventions to address the continent’s population and development challenges.Actions must be guided by: Human Rights principles, integrity, transparency and accountability, inclusiveness, and strong partnerships with the private sector, CSOs and communities.
1. Under Human Security, Environment and Population Mobility, CSOs recommend the following:
1.1 Intensify peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms within countries and across borders
1.2 Enhance provision of relief and related social services to people affected by conflict, particularly women and girls, refugees, internally displaced people, and persons with disabilities
1.3 Reinforce the development and enforcement of laws and programs to end the culture of violence and impunity that is perpetuated by militarization, fundamentalism, patriarchy, and human trafficking.
1.4 Strengthen local, national and regional justice systems to bring those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice.
1.5 Ensure food security and strengthen agricultural productivity and livelihoods
1.6 Enact national policies and bilateral agreements that protect the human rights of African migrant workers within and outside Africa especially women, in line with ILO conventions.
1.7 Urgently implement AU Heads of State Decision to remove visa and related restrictions to facilitate the freedom of movement within Africa.
1.8 Reinforce efforts to enhance the role of Africans in the diaspora in Africa’s development,
1.9 Promote rural development to reduce rural-urban migration and improve urban planning, governance and infrastructure
1.10 All governments and other stakeholders should reinforce integration of population dynamics and the environment at all levels of development planning and programme implementation.
2. Under Inclusive Economic Transformation we recommend the following:
2.1 Maximize Africa’s chances of harnessing the Demographic Dividend by investing in people and enhancing inclusive economic growth
2.2 Develop review and enact national policies and laws to ensure that trade and investment agreements with multinationals, foreign governments, and local companies are transparent, strategic, and prevent exploitative business practices and capital flight.
2.3 Strengthen governance, political and economic systems that are grounded in the Human Rights framework, integrity and accountability in use of public resources and service delivery, inclusiveness and investment in human development.
2.4 Enact laws that strengthen the capacity of communities to access, control and manage land, energy, technology and information, especially for women, youth, persons with disabilities, and indigenous people.
2.5 Institute and extend social protection mechanisms to safeguard the wellbeing of vulnerable groups by recognizing and rewarding women for their role in taking care of the children, the sick, the elderly, persons with disability, and other disadvantaged people, among other mechanisms.
3. Regarding Education and Employment, we recommend that Governments and Stakeholders should:
3.1 Reform and harmonise formal and non-formal education systems and curricula to ensure quality education that fosters innovation, development of productive skills, spirit of entrepreneurship, and visionary leadership that meets emerging needs of local and global economies.
3.2 Ensure universal enrolment, retention, and progression at primary, secondary and tertiary levels
3.3 Develop and fully implement policies and programs to prevent and address all forms of school-based violence
3.4 Ensure relevance of education that includes promoting technical, vocational education and training programs, making use of new information and communication technologies that are applicable to current labour market trends and demands.
3.5 Intensify efforts to create employment, alternative livelihoods and enhance the civil and political participation for young people and their role as agents of socioeconomic change and development.
4. On Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, we urge governments to:
4.1 Operationalize the right to health by adopting equity, rights-based planning and resource-allocation,
4.2 Prioritize and adequately finance universal access to comprehensive, quality and integrated SRH services including adequate counselling, information and education; access to full range of acceptable, affordable, safe, effective and high-quality contraceptives of choice, comprehensive maternity care, access to comprehensive abortion care, prevention and treatment of infertility, STIs, reproductive cancers and other diseases.
4.3 Repeal laws criminalizing access to safe abortion in line with the provisions of Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol.
4.4 Create awareness and ensure that the right to health, especially SRHR, for all people including marginalized groups is respected
4.5 Remove existing barriers, including requirements for spousal and parental consent, to women and young people gaining access to family planning, comprehensive abortion care, and other reproductive health services.
4.6 Implement the MPoA commitment to allocate 15% of the health budget to family planning and address all demand and supply oriented barriers of access to, and use of family planning.
4.7 Implement and fully fund, quality, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education programmes for both in and out-of-school youth that is relevant to each age group.
4.8 Strengthen male involvement as advocates, clients and equal partners on SRHR, including in the promotion of gender equality and SRHR of women and girls.
4.9 Eliminate sexual and gender based violence in private and public spheres,
4.10 Strengthen and enforce laws that end child, early and forced marriage and set minimum legal age of marriage to 18.
4.11 Formulate and implement policies and programs that promote positive African cultures, and challenge harmful traditional practices.
We also recognise the role of Monitoring, Transparency and Accountability and we urge all stakeholders to –
Strengthen the capacities of local experts and institutions in generation, analysis, and use of data and research evidence to ensure evidence-based decision-making and transparent monitoring and accountability processes for all aspects of the ICPD and other development agendas.
In conclusion, if governments, development partners and other stakeholders implement the recommendations above, Africa will achieve the goals of the ICPD agenda and other development frameworks, harness the Demographic Dividend and achieve sustainable development. 5
Governments and all stakeholders must simultaneously invest in rights-based universal access to family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services, public health, quality education, adopt economic policies that will create employment, and ensure accountable use of public financial and natural resources.
Download the document here.