InfoHub: Thank you Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa for doing this interview with us. You are a member of the African Committee of Expert on the Rights and Welfare of the Child since July 2010, appointed as the Special Rapporteur on Child Marriage by the ACERWC at its first Extra Ordinary Session on 10 October 2014.
Can you tell us what is the situation of child marriage in Africa?
Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa: Child marriage is a harmful social practice that every citizen, community and State must fight against. 41 countries in the world have a prevalence rate of child marriage of 30% or more, 30 of these countries are in Africa; which is huge. Among these, 10 African countries allow marriage of children who are under the age of 18 (www.prb.org): Niger 74.5% (2006), Chad 71.5% (2004), Mali 70.5% (2006), 63.1% Guinea (2005), Central African Republic 60.6% (2006), Mozambique 52% (2008), Malawi 50.2% (2006) and finally Ethiopia 49.2% (2005).
Child marriage is also caused by a sexual discrimination. The percentage of a spouses aged between 15 to 18 years is much higher among girls than among boys.
InfoHub: What are the different campaigns and programmes currently running to end child marriage in Africa? What are the set objectives and level of progress?
Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa: The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the Maputo Protocol and the African Youth Charter (AYC) are the instruments through which the African Union (AU) supports policies for protecting and promoting the rights of children and young people and as such has launched the Campaign to "End Child Marriage in Africa". The campaign will last for two years, renewable, and its primary objective is to accelerate efforts to end child marriage by improving the continental advocacy on its adverse effects, to eliminate child marriage by supporting political action in the protection and promotion of Human Rights and by supporting Member States in launching and implementing national programmes. It also involves raising awareness on child marriage at the continental level and eliminating barriers to the enforcement of legislation, determining the socioeconomic impact of child marriage and increasing the capacity of non-state actors for advocacy.
In addition to these instruments that have been signed and ratified by the overwhelming majority of Member States, the implementation of related instruments has to be strengthened, i.e. the Continental Policy Framework for the Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Africa, the Maputo Plan of Action, the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), the 5th priority of the Strategic Plan 2014-2017 and the AU Agenda 2063.
The expected results of this campaign are: the established reduction of child marriage rates by end of 2015 to early 2016 (in countries where the campaign has been launched), the increase of the number of countries who examine, implement and effectively enforce the national laws against child marriage, the increase of the percentage of adolescents who have access to family planning services (in countries where the campaign has been launched), the increased participation of all stakeholders (communities, the private sector, civil society...) as well as the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation system.
In order to achieve this, it is necessary to recommend to States Parties to raise awareness and mobilise families and communities, to optimise services (social, health, legal ...) and to make them available to girls and their families, to implement and enforce legislation and to ensure the implementation of adequate policies and to especially work towards the empowerment of girls.
InfoHub: How does the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) follow up on this campaign?
Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa: In this respect, the ACERWC examines this issue during the review of reports from States Parties and requests more clarifications and information during the presentation of alternative reports from Civil Society organisations.
InfoHub: This year’s Day of the African Child is focused on Ending Child Marriage, the AU is also organising the African Girls Summit focused on ending child marriage in Africa. What has made this issue of primary concern at the AU level this year?
Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa: It is imperative for the Agenda 2063 (Africa 2063) that women are involved in development and their empowerment is essential if we want to win this challenge. For this reason (and others related to the health of women and the defence of their rights) all harmful practices that keep women in a state of economic as social and psychological dependence should be proscribed. Furthermore the Chairperson of the African Union Commission being a woman, she has a great desire to wage this fight because as a woman she certainly knows what it costs not to combat these practices.
InfoHub: What steps can governments take to make sure these campaigns meet their goals in time? What can African CSOs do?
Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa: Member States must first respect and uphold the definition of the Child: any person below the age of 18. They must then implement laws that prohibit child marriage (of any form, be it customary, traditional ...) and prosecute offenders. The state must train and educate civil servants: legal staff, security agents, teachers etc. and with the help of Civil Society organisations: educate women themselves, religious leaders, community leaders through regular campaigns all over the country.
InfoHub: Thank you Dr Fatima Delladj-Sebaa for doing this interview with the InfoHub!