Category Archives: African Women’s Decade

Join & Follow Panel Discussion: Implement NOW #WomensRights Commitments #26thAUSummit

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African leaders have endorsed human rights in national, regional, continental and international instruments. However, the effective implementation of key AU human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, by the majority of member states is still lagging behind the agreed targets. Upholding of human and women’s rights remains a responsibility of all stakeholders but most especially a primary responsibility of Governments who are the duty bearers. Thus the 2016 AU theme African Year of Human Rights, with specific focus on Women’s Rights” provides an opportunity for the African leaders with strong participation of civil society, especially African women and other actors to assess the implementation of these key instruments and redefine the future of the continent and its population – men and women, boys and girls.

You  Are  Invited to a Panel Discussion by FEMNET, SOAWR & MEWC

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#womensrights #safeabortion #srhr Sierra Leone Safe Abortion Bill: SIGN-ON Online Letter to Petition Parliament

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Join and support our sisters in Sierra Leone at this critical time by Signing-On this Online Petition.

The parliament of Sierra Leone passed the Safe Abortion Bill sometime in December 2015 and it was forwarded to the President for signature but he declined to sign it.

Arise and stand in solidarity for women’s human rights by signing this online petition, aimed at appealing to members of parliament to maintain their recent positive and progressive vote in favour of the Safe Abortion Bill and to quickly pass the bill into law.

Deadline for the Sign-on on the online petition: 31st January 2016

13th January, 2016

To:     Hon. Sheku Badara Basiru Dumbuya, Speaker
Hon. Chernor M. Bah, Deputy Speaker
Hon  Ibrahim Bundu, Majority Leader
Hon. Leonard S. Fofanah, Deputy Majority Leader
Hon. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader
Hon. AnsumanaJaiaKaikai, Deputy Minority Leader
Hon. Claude D.M Kamanda, Chief Whip
Hon. Sidie Tunis, Minority Chief Whip
Hon. Hannah B. Songowa, Deputy Chief Whip
Hon. Jusufu B. Mansaray, Deputy Minority Whip
Hon. Ibrahim S.Sesay, Clerk of Parliament

We write today to commend the Parliament of Sierra Leone for its recent vote in favour of the Safe Abortion Bill and urge quick passage of the bill into law. This landmark bill allows us to envision the elimination of unsafe abortion in Sierra Leone and the many deaths and injuries it causes. With the passage of the Safe Abortion Act 2015, Sierra Leone will join with other African nations as leaders taking the most direct and effective action possible to reduce maternal mortality and affirm women’s human rights.

We in Africa should be ashamed that our women continue to die of unsafe abortion when safe abortion is such a clear and attainable solution. Yet almost all 47,000 women who die every year from unsafe abortion are in developing countries, with African women at the highest risk. Without access to safe and legal abortion, women become desperate and procure clandestine procedures in unsafe settings. The epidemic of unsafe abortion has left women injured or disabled. It has resulted in families being broken by the loss of the mother.

We applaud the Parliament of Sierra Leone for saying definitively through the Safe Abortion Bill that it cannot sit by while women die needlessly from unsafe abortion.Though opposed by a few loud voices, members of Parliament have had the courage to stand firm in protecting the people of Sierra Leone from harm. We urge you to sign the bill into law and begin saving lives now.

With the passage of this legislation, the Parliament will also be affirming its commitment to the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003), commonly known as the Maputo Protocol. Article 3 of the protocol affirms women’s rights to dignity, life, integrity and security of person and Article 14 protects the reproductive rights of women including the right to safe abortion. Sierra Leone ratified the Maputo Protocol this past summer, and this law ensures that Sierra Leone will meet and lead in its commitments to African nations and peoples.

Again, we celebrate and congratulate the Parliament for its strong and clear steps to protect women’s health and dignity.  Sierra Leone stands as a champion within Africa for women’s health and rights and a model for numerous other countries that are unwilling to take this bold and important step for what is good and right.

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Petition prepared by:-

Ipas Africa Alliance: Contact: Lucy Lugalia: guthriee@ipas.org

SOAWR – Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition

FEMNET – African Women’s Development and Communication Network: Contact: Dinah Musindarwezo: director@femnet.or.ke and Hellen Malinga Apila: advocacy@femnet.or.ke

Civil Society Groups Call For Rural Women Not to be Neglected in the Implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

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On this International Day of Rural Women, we the undersigned organisations, call on African governments to ensure that rural women are a central focus in the implementation of the newly adopted sustainable development goals, including by addressing the social and cultural factors which prevent their access, control and use of land.

Today, 15 October, marks the sixth International Day of Rural Women. The day was established by the United Nations (UN) in 2008 to recognise the critical role and contribution of rural women, in improving food security and eradicating poverty. In two days, we commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year, the two international days fall just weeks after 193 member states of the UN unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of 17 goals with specific targets aimed at, among other things, addressing poverty and increasing economic growth and prosperity, while protecting the environment. Of the numerous targets, three of these –1.4, 2.3 and 5.a – specifically relate to women’s access to land.

Currently, most African countries are rural in nature and it is estimated that 75% – 90% of land is held under traditional rules, customs and practices. Most of these traditional rules, customs and practices mean rural women can only access land through their relationships to men as wives, daughters and sisters. Sadly, the majority of African rural women lose their rights to maternal family land when they move to join their husbands upon marriage, and lose access to marital land upon divorce or death of the husband.

Discriminatory rules, customs and practices have a negative impact not only on African rural women, but the entire African continent. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), rural women in sub-Saharan Africa produce most of the food in the region and yet, due to discrimination, they neither own nor have rights to the land they cultivate.[i] This has negative implications for basic food production and the eradication of poverty. Unequal land rights further reinforce women’s secondary status within the community, perpetuate poverty and foster power imbalances.

African governments have legally and morally bound themselves, through a number of international instruments and policy frameworks, produced by both the African Union and the UN, to safeguard the rights of rural women to land on an equal basis to men. In restricting these rights many African countries are breaking international law.

A handful of countries in Africa have taken positive steps towards ending discrimination and protecting women’s land rights. For example, in the Constitution of Mozambique, women have equal rights to use and benefit from land and are joint owners of community title. Kenya’s new Constitution and land policy provides for joint ownership of marital property and equal succession rights for men and women.

However, despite these few positive steps, much more needs to be done. We, the undersigned organisations, call on African governments to ensure that rural women are not neglected in the implementation of the sustainable development goals and that these goals take into account human rights treaties entered into by the governments. Parliaments must act to ensure that laws guarantee women’s equal rights to access, use and control over land. Furthermore, courts must uphold basic principles of equality, including in relation to land rights for rural women.

To be effective, legislation and land reform policies should both focus on rural women’s right to the access, use and control of land, as well as the lack of knowledge, cultural and social factors that prevent rural women from obtaining secure rights to land. We therefore further call on governments to ensure such legislation and land reform policies are gender responsive and take into account women’s historically disadvantaged socio-economic position compared to men.

ENDORSED BY:

  • Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
  • Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)
  • Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Initiative for Gender Equality and Development in Africa (IGED Africa)
  • Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)
  • Southern Africa SADC Gender Protocol Alliance
  • African women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)
  • Association for Women, Law and Development (Associação, Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento, MULEIDE) – Mozambique
  • Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition-Zimbabwe (PAPWC-ZIM)
  • Echoes of Women in Africa Initiative (ECOWA) – Nigeria
  • Healing Hearts Widows Support Foundation – Nigeria
  • Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) – Nigeria
  • Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN) – Namibia
  • Empowered at Dusk Women’s Association (EADWA) – Uganda
  • Sonke Gender Justice – South Africa
  • Women and Law in Southern Africa, Lesotho (WLSA – Lesotho)
  • Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA) – Zambia
  • Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) – Namibia
  • Women and Law in Southern Africa, Zambia (WLSA – Zambia)
  • Foundation for Socio Economic Justice (FSEJ) – Swaziland
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum – Zimbabwe
  • Women in Law and Development in Africa -West Africa Sub Regional Office (Wildaf – Wasro)
  • Federation of Women Lawyers, Lesotho (FIDA – Lesotho)
  • NGO Gender Co-ordination Network (NGOGCN) – Malawi
  • Women and Law in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe (WLSA – Zimbabwe)

 

For further information contact:

Brigadier Siachitema, Women’s Land and Property Rights Lawyer, Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), BrigadierS@salc.org.za, +2710 596 8538

[i] http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0198e/x0198e02.htm

PRESS RELEASE: An Appeal to African Leaders: Support Gender Equality in the Sustainable Development Goals Without Reservations

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24th September 2015

For Immediate Release

On the eve of the adoption of the landmark Post-2015 Development Agenda over 140 advocates for the rights of women and girls in Africa are urging their leaders to support targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Indeed, these targets are already in line with existing African commitments that guarantee universal access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services.

The two targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals call on governments to:

3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes;

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

In a Statement titled African Women & Girls Call on their Governments to Support Gender Equality in Totality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, advocates note that throughout the negotiation process some African governments have spoken out against inclusion of these targets. This despite all 54 member states of the African Union having adopted and implemented progressive regional commitments on the right to sexual and reproductive health. [1]

Ms. Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET said, “We are urging our Heads of State and Government to stand in solidarity with the millions of African women and girls affected by poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, and explicitly support the SRHR targets 3.7 and 5.6 in the Post-2015 Development Agenda without any reservation.”

 

For more information please contact:

On behalf of SOAWR: Kavinya Makau, kmakau@equalitynow.org and/or Naisola Likimani – likimanin@ipas.org

On behalf of FEMNET:, Dinah Musindarwezo director@femnet.or.ke and/or Rachel Kagoiya: library@femnet.or.ke

[1] Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (2006); The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) popularly known as ‘Maputo Protocol’; the Common Africa Position (CAP) on the Post-2015 development agenda

A UNITED FRONT FOR THE NOT MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS GENDER PRINCIPLE IN KENYA

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By Kerigo Odada

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 upholds the rights of women as being equal in law to men, and entitled to enjoy equal CoK 2010 opportunities in the political, social and economic spheres. Under Article 81 (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive public bodies shall be of the same gender.

Under Article 27 of the constitution the government is required to develop and pass policies and laws, including affirmative action programs and policies to address the past discrimination that women have faced. Additionally, the government is required to develop policies and laws to ensure that, not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same sex. However this law that was a significant achievement for women has recently come under threat since the Chepkonga Bill was tabled before parliament. The Bill seeks to amend the provision of articles 81 (b) by providing for its progressive realization. This move by the Chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee was not taken lightly by women and men who are in support of gender parity in political representation.

Civil Society Organizations came together in support of an advocacy campaign against the Chepkong’a Bill. The campaign is meant to ensure that the two-thirds gender rule is fully implemented as set out in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and that women’s participation in politics and government is safeguarded.

CSOs-led campaigns such as Thuluthi Mbili Za Mama Twazitaka Sasa and Green Amendment, both supported byDoc1  likeminded parliamentarians under the umbrella of KEPHRA (Kenya Parliamentary for Human Rights Association) and KEWOPA (Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association) came together in support of one formula that has already been tabled before parliament by Leader of Majority in Parliament Hon. Aden Duale.

Before the merger of the advocacy campaigns in support of the Geen ammendmenttwo-thirds gender principle, CSOs were championing two different Bills presenting two different formulae.

The two formulae being championed by CSOs were:

Twinning: Have the 290 constituencies contested as usual. Then pair up 98 neighbouring constituencies for women to compete among themselves in addition to the 47 slots already created in counties. For example, Kibra merged with Langata, Westlands paired up with Kabete, Dagoreti North with Dagoreti Westland. Again the team was proposing nomination slots to be extended by 14 to make it 20 to represent youth, women and persons with disabilities. In summary, if this proposal had gone through, there would be 290 MPs, 145 female elected MPs and 20 nominated MPs to represent special groups and one Speaker adding up to 456 persons in the National Assembly.

The ‘greatest looser’: currently being championed by CSOs, KEWOPA and KEPHRA. It was tabled by the Attorney General through Hon. Duale after High Court Judge, Justice Mumbi Ngugi gave the Attorney General and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) 40 days to prepare and table the two-thirds gender rule Bill before Parliament. The Bill states that, after an election, if the number of women does not meet the constitutional threshold, the gap will be bridged by picking additional women as per party lists. Political parties will submit a list of members to be nominated. According to the Bill, the allocation of the seats will be done proportionally on the basis of the number of seats won by a political party in order to ensure the empowerment through nomination will be spread to many people. The Bill also stipulates that one cannot be nominated for the special seats for more than two terms. It says the provision for the special seats will lapse 20 years after the 2017 elections.

The Bill introduces new clauses to Articles 97 and 98 to alter the composition of the National Assembly and the Senate. “The composition of the National Assembly (Senate) comprises of the number of special seat members necessary to ‎ensure no more than two-thirds of the membership of the National Assembly (Senate) is of the same gender,” the new clause says. The Bill also introduces new clauses to Articles 97 and 98 to ensure the special seats are allocated proportionate to the number of seats won by a political party, determined after a general election.

Moving a motion to reduce the Bill’s publication period, majority leader Aden Duale said the National Assembly will seek the extension of the fast-approaching August 27 deadline for the Bill’s enactment.

The laws that are targeted for review are the Elections Act, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, the Political Parties Act, the County Governments Act and the National Gender and Equality Commission Act.

FEMNET is united with the women’s movement in Kenya and in Africa in calling on the Parliament to act in the interest of both men and women in fulfilling the promise the Kenya Constitution that is recognized as one of the most

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progressive Constitutions in Africa. Often we hear about the huge cost associated with increasing the number of women in parliament and yet we do not hear about the cost of excluding experiences, expertise of more that 50 percent of the population from being part of the decision-making on matters that impact their lives.

Kenya is the only country in the Eastern Africa that has recently entered the category of the middle income country, is one of the Countries’ that hosted the women’s international conference, hosted the launch of the African Women’s Decade in 2010 and recently co-facilitated the just concluded negotiations of the Post-2015 Development Agenda that has emerged with great wins for gender equality. Yet, in Eastern Africa, Kenya is performing dismally on women’s political representation. Kenya falls short of reaching the 30 percent threshold of women’s representation as stipulated in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and definitely far below the African Union’s 50 percent gender parity policy framework. For this situation to change there is a need to change the Kenyan political systems and most importantly the gender perceptions of the policymakers and the entire citizenry.

The recent 20 years review of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing +20) showed that eight countries in Africa including South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Seychelles and Uganda have reached the 30 percent target of women in the national parliament. It is high time that Kenya learnt from these countries. With or without formulas, implementing the two thirds gender principle is do-able!

Kerigo Odada is a lawyer passionate about pan-Africanism, economic empowerment and political participation of women and girls, currently attached to the Advocacy Programme at FEMNET. Follow her at @eunidada

Women’s Forum: Feminist Perspectives on the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

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By Nyaguthii Wangui Maina*

Untitled

July 10th 2015, marked an important day when feminists from around the globe converged in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to share their views, reflect and consecrate their ideas ahead of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
With a vibrant room filled to capacity by both female and male counterparts, succinct and pertinent opinions were shared on the amalgamated view that the stakes are indeed high for realizing gender equality and women’s rights as development financing is shaped, negotiated and agreed upon in Addis Ababa. A consistent theme that did however run throughout the discussions was that transformation of mindsets was critical in surmounting the structural barriers impeding gender equality.

The forum was opened by Ms Dinah Musindarwezo from FEMNET and Ms Rosa Lizarde from the Feminist Task Force and Women Working Group on Financing for Development, both of them echoing the views and concerns of participants present in the room; that the road ahead was indeed bumpy.

Despite the well known fact of women’s empowerment and gender equality being basic human rights and central to human development, governments and global state actors alike have nonetheless mismatched their commitments with the required financing and policies. If anything, the alarming trend of women’s civil society spaces shrinking globally is a cause for concern and redress. A keen participant added to this point by raising the issue of women at home being excluded from influencing these very processes. “There is a strong disconnect between politics and the economy and women’s voices are missing everywhere, even at home in domestic processes,” she said.

Ms Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, and Ms Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET

Ms Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, and Ms Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET

As the forum began with discussions on the issues at stake in the Financing for Development negotiations and strategic interventions on ways to overcome global obstacles for gender justice and sustainable and equitable development, Ms Lakshmi Puri, deputy Executive Director of UN Women, urged the audience to consistently remember that there can never be enough gender in these discussions. “The political declaration from CSW59 committed member states to support and provide a safe environment for women and girls, however, making all stake holders accountable is pertinent; the private sector has a massive role to play too,” she said. Ms Puri also urged for cohesive interventions in pushing for gender equality. “We must show solidarity between women from the north and south to push our common agenda forward.”

The forum took place in five consecutive sessions. The full program for the women’s forum can be seen here.

Session 1 highlighted the Red Flags for Women’s Rights around the Third Financing for Development Conference and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. An infographic on some of the key areas raised by experts from the Women’s Working Group can be seen below:

Womens major group red flags

Session 2 included five thematic discussions on the red flags highlighted. These were as follows: Tax Justice & Domestic Resource Mobilisation; Private Finance; International Public Finance; Debt, trade, systemic issues and technology; and Follow up and Review.

Session 3 included a plenary session where there were report backs from the thematic group discussions. Thereafter discussions by simultaneous working groups on FfD3 regional priorities took place.

The final session included reflections dubbed, ‘Morning after Addis. What comes next?’  This was a very participatory discussion which encapsulated both stock-taking and looking forward in the horizon for feminist and women’s organisations looking at where they would find themselves post-Addis; a look at the links with Post 2015 and other processes at the regional and global level; and what in fact the Addis outcome could mean for the Post 2015 process. This session was summarised by the highlighting of the existing opportunities at regional and global level to advance the links between women’s rights and the FfD agenda.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Emma Kaliya (FEMNET Chairperson) and the Women Working Group co-coordinators echoed the same sentiments. After all is said and done and there is sufficient mobilisation of resources, how will these resources be used to enhance gender equality? What does the governance architecture look like? How will we consistently and persistently mobilise ourselves to ensure that women’s rights are at the heart of development? Yes investing in women makes economic sense, but the current economic model in and of itself undermines addressing women’s rights as basic human rights.

*Ms Nyaguthii Wangui Maina is a blogger; connect with her on her blog Musings of A People and on Twitter @nm_wangui.

Young and Capable: Why Young People Must be at the Centre of Efforts to End Child Marriage

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End CEFMAs I packed my bags to begin a journey that would take me several thousand miles from my hometown in Nairobi to Casablanca, I shuddered at the thought that at the very same moment, a girl not much younger than me would begin a similar journey – an arranged marriage. The marriage would be most likely without her consent. This day would mark the end of her childhood and the beginning of a long nightmare that would quickly become her life. By the time my flight would touch down in Casablanca, 18 hours later, she would probably have consummated a marriage in which neither her mind nor her body was prepared for. The thought of this made me sick to my stomach. With this harsh reality in my mind, I joined fellow participants at the Girls Not Brides members’ meeting, resolute that ending child marriage will not be possible unless and until young people are meaningfully involved and supported.

What is Child Marriage?
Child marriage is global phenomenon defined as a formal marriage or informal union in which one of the spouses is married before the age of 18. While child marriage can affect boys and girls, it disproportionately affects the girl child. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that every year, more than 14 million adolescent and teen girls are married, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. It is a violation of young women’s rights and one of a number of harmful practices which harm young women worldwide. The implications of this practice on the lives of girls are many and far-reaching. Child marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty and deep rooted gender inequalities that often lead to society having a perceived low value for women and girls. When girls are forced to marry, they often drop out of school, face serious health complications and even risk dying from early pregnancy and childbearing, and are at greater risk of HIV infection and intimate partner violence. Child brides are often isolated, with limited opportunity to engage socially and to participate in the economic development of their communities.

Young People Are Saying NO to child marriage
While the problem of child marriage is complex and sensitive, young people hold the potential to catapult worldwide efforts in addressing the problem.

First, child marriage is an issue that directly impacts the lives of young people. As such, we are able to articulate the issues in a way no adult can. Listening to young people’s voices in general is powerful in so many ways. It not only helps create a better, equal and more inclusive society but also allows young people to feel important, empowered and confident to become their own leaders. This is often leads to successful advocacy as recently witnessed in Malawi where young activists played a critical role in raising for the minimum legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 years of age in Malawi.

Secondly, young people continue to play a key role in monitoring and averting potential child marriage cases. Where countries have had laws in place to criminalize the practice, young people have been able to support each other by reporting cases of child marriages to the authorities, providing support networks, assisting peers access safe spaces and changing norms and attitudes. In a recent youth survey done by Girls Not Brides, a young participant from Uganda said: “We know who is at risk of child marriage; we hear the conversations that adults do not. Let us be the eyes and ears and the actors demanding that young people are allowed to fulfill their potential”

Lastly, by speaking out against child marriage, young people become strong role models for their peers. Kakenya Ntaiya shares her fearless journey of how escaping child marriage changed her fate forever. Through her story, Kakenya continues to inspire, motivate and empower young girls to pursue education so that they become agents of change. In 2013, she was nominated as a Top 10 CNN Hero, for her work to send girls to school and delay marriage in Enoosaen, a Maasai village in south-west Kenya. Her primary school, Kakenya Center for Excellence, currently hosts over 155 girls.

From small actions at the village level to global advocacy efforts, the positive examples of young change makers working towards ending child marriage in the community are vast and varying.

The Time to Act is NOW!
Engaging young people to end child marriage is not only the right thing to do but it is also the practical thing to do. By tapping into their knowledge and insights, diverse skills in not only mobilizing at different levels but also engaging with different groups and their potential of catalyzing behavior change in the society, the fight to end child marriage can gain a new impetus. This can be successfully nurtured through genuine youth-adult relationships, opportunities that develop meaningful skills though continual capacity building and technical support, access to decision-making platforms and safe spaces that provide emotional and physical security.

As I believe, it is possible to end child marriage in our generation. Together, let us banish child marriage to the books of history, where it belongs.

Follow @Femnetprog @GirlsNotBrides & @felogene on twitter for updates on International Day of The African Child – June 16 2015 . THEME ”25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”