Commissioner of social affairs and gender of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne has said that the increasing rate of child marriage in the West African sub region is unacceptable.

This is even as the regional block, says it is set to eliminate child marriage in the region through the validation and implementation of its reviewed Child Policy and Plan of Action.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of ‘Experts Meeting on the ECOWAS Child Policy/ Strategic Plan of Action 2019-2023,and the Roadmap on Prevention and Response of Child Marriage’ in Abuja, yesterday, Dr Jagne disclosed that the sub region accounts for the highest in Africa and the second highest in the world.

According to the commissioner, the previous policy, which was based on international frameworks, was approved by the Heads of State in 2008 and covered the period of 2009 to 2013.

Speaking further she said: “Indeed, six of the 15 ECOWAS countries; Niger: 76 per cent, Mali: 55 per cent, Burkina Faso: 52 per cent, Guinea: 51 per cent, Nigeria: 43 per cent, Sierra Leone 39 per cent, are among the twenty countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world.

“Two ECOWAS countries, Nigeria and Niger, rank among the 20 countries with the largest absolute number of child marriages in the world.”

“While ECOWAS Member States continue to implement measures to end child marriage, rates remain very high.

“This also is in spite of the work done at the level of the African Union and the launch of the Campaign in 2014; as well as the commitment of 11 West African Countries to end Early Child Marriage.”

She explained that the review would include the multidimensional issues affecting the rights of the child in West Africa with a focus on the Roadmap on Prevention and Response to Child Marriage.

“Thus, the ECOWAS Commission, will present to you for validation, the Child Policy and Strategic Plan of Action and a Roadmap on Prevention and Response to Child Marriage, aimed at charting a clear course for the Region in dealing with this issue in the coming years.”

In his remarks, Country Director, PLAN International, an NGO, Mr Hussaini Abdu said his organisation was working with governments, religious and traditional leaders across West Africa to also implement a global programme against child marriage in the region.

According to the country director, “Our work is to see how we can work with governments to set up policies and frameworks that will support the process of delegalising child marriage, working with traditional leaders of our different communities”.

Abdu urged member states to collaborate with the organisation to facilitate its efforts in ending early and forced child marriage.

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