November 1st, 2017

In a potentially significant population-related development, political leaders, activists, and local chiefs from West and Central Africa have met to commit to ending child marriage — this in a region with among the world’s highest birth rates and where more than a third of girls are married under the age of 18. In six of the countries over 50 percent are child brides and in one case, Niger, 76 percent are. (UNICEF defines child marriage as a union – formal or informal – before the age of 18).

A UNICEF official at the meeting noted that, while child marriage had declined from 50 to 39 percent in the region since 1990, population growth meant that the practice was still increasing (see article). It is estimated that at current rates, ending child marriage will take more than 100 years to achieve in West and Central Africa, despite the targeted global United Nations sustainable development goal of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, including the elimination of the practice of child marriage, by 2030.

That West and Central African leaders have met for the first time to address child marriage in the region is good news. But, as noted by Senegal’s Prime Minister, who attended the meeting, “the problem is how to move from vision to action.” PIC recalls that at a meeting in South Africa two years ago, the UN warned that child marriages were “set to soar” on the continent, and more than double by 2050, largely due to Africa’s relentlessly sky-rocketing population growth.

PIC agrees with advocates who warn that it will take no less than a socio-cultural movement of major proportions to end child marriage since the practice is deeply ingrained, driven by factors including poverty, insecurity, and religious tradition. We therefore contend that it is important that we, as a society, and Canada as a donor country, strongly oppose child brides as one of the most effective means of advancing global efforts to reduce poverty and population growth while enhancing human rights and gender equity.

Even modest success would substantially improve the outlook on women’s and children’s health, educational achievements and earnings and, by extension, the standards of living in the countries concerned.

Contact: Madeline Weld, PhD.
President, Population Institute Canada
Tel: (613) 833-3668
Email: [email protected]
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PIC is the voice of Canadians concerned with overpopulation and its environmental impact. Founded in 1992, it campaigns to increase support for reproductive health and education, and for universal, voluntary access to family planning which the UN notes “…could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology available to the human race.”

Fact: Continued global population growth, together with overconsumption, is incompatible with a healthy, sustainable future for humanity and all other life on our planet.
Patrons: Sir David Attenborough; Robert Bateman; Margaret Catley-Carlson; Drs. Paul & Anne Ehrlich; Robert Fowler; Dr. William Rees; Dr. David Schindler; Ronald Wright. See patron bios.

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