A press release from UNICEF on October 23, 2017 outlines how far we’ve come and how far we have to go in the fight to end child marriage. Despite progress made over the past two decades, it will take 100 years to end child marriage in West & Central Africa at the current rate of decline. Due to Africa’s rapid population growth, even doubling this rate (0.8%) would not be enough to reduce child marriage significantly.
Though these numbers may seem bleak, UNICEF’s report shows that progress in high-prevalence countries is possible with the appropriate strategies and commitments. Recognizing that child marriage is an extreme limitation to both individuals and communities is an important step towards investments in girls and women, especially in the context of the demographic dividend. When girls marry young, they are more likely to drop out of school, contract HIV and face violence. They lack skills needed for employment and often cycle back to poverty. Empowering young women and girls through education, legal protections and targeted health services will ensure development leads to transformation.
photo credit: UN Women