US, African leaders must tackle child marriage
This week, more than 40 African heads of state are in Washington, D.C., for the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The theme is “Investing in the Next Generation,” which is fitting given the youthful demographics of the continent and the significant issues the next generation faces – from recent abductions of Nigerian schoolgirls to unemployment and forced recruitment of child soldiers, to name a few.
I hope the Obama administration will use this opportunity to lead for girls and announce new commitments to end child, early and forced marriage. Evidence compiled by the International Center for Research on Women and others has consistently shown that adolescent girls are among the most vulnerable to rights abuses and are yet the best-positioned to contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous future when they have a fair chance – a decent education, access to health care and the opportunity to contribute economically.
However, these opportunities escape child brides, who are less likely to finish their education, more likely to experience violence, sexually transmitted infections, early pregnancy and complications in childbirth, typically living a life of domestic servitude. This is not only a violation of their fundamental human rights, but also an unnecessary and avoidable challenge to the outcomes African leaders gathering this week seek – more educated, healthy and productive societies.