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Yalemwork is Ethiopian and she was three-years-old when she got married. Child marriage is still prevalent in sub Saharan Africa affecting many girls like Yalemwork. Image: DfID UK

The Maputo Protocol Turns 15

The Maputo Protocol Turns 15

Yalemwork is Ethiopian and she was three-years-old when she got married. Child marriage is still prevalent in sub Saharan Africa affecting many girls like Yalemwork. Image: DfID UK
Yalemwork is Ethiopian and she was three-years-old when she got married. Child marriage is still prevalent in sub Saharan Africa affecting many girls like Yalemwork. Image: DfID UK

In the last few weeks, we have had the privilege of having conversations with a some of the individuals who have been working to support ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol from its early days. As we celebrate 15 years of the Protocol today, we have taken this opportunity to reflect on the past, the future and what we can do better to ensure the work being done on improving access to data contributes to efforts on implementation of the Protocol. You can watch these conversations on our YouTube channel here or on Facebook.

The Maputo Protocol officially known as The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, guarantees comprehensive rights for women. Being the world’s most progressive treaty on the rights of women, it addresses social and political gender equity but also autonomy over reproductive health decisions and an end to female genital mutilation and other forms of violence and harmful practices. Despite the high support the treaty received, a number of key issues which have strong cultural roots were sticking points for some political leaders in considering whether or not to sign or ratify the Maputo Protocol. One such issue is that of child marriage.

Globally 700 million women and girls today were married before their 18th birthday; 125 million of them being African. Although child marriage in Africa is slowly decreasing, the decline is mostly limited to the rich and the practise still persists amongst the poor. In addition to this, despite there being fewer child marriages every year in Sub-Saharan Africa, the growing population counteracts the rate at which the practise is declining. Therefore if the same trend is to continue, almost half of the world’s child brides in 2050 will be from Africa.

The problem of child marriage demonstrates the interconnectedness between various thematic disciplines as well as disparate goals in the SDG framework. For instance, addressing child marriage has health (SDG3) and education (SDG4) implications for half the population of the continent. These have an impact on wealth creation potential (SDG1) and the ability to improve the quality of life for oneself and for others.

Child marriage often happens due to poverty, customary or religious beliefs  and inadequate or poorly enforced legislative frameworks. It not only disrupts a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy, it interrupts her schooling, limits her career opportunities and puts her at an increased risk of domestic violence. According to the World Bank, each year a girl spends in secondary education may reduce her likelihood of marrying before the age of 18 by five percentage points. Girls are powerful agents of socio-economic change. Those that complete secondary school tend to be healthier, earn more, marry later and have fewer children giving better health care and education to the next generation.

Unfortunately, the data on prevalence of child marriage within countries year by year is not available to stakeholders in good time to inform advocacy and enforcement of laws. The data on school enrollment, attendance and dropout is also not easily available where it exists. In addition to this, one of the most critical sources of data for identifying child marriage and under age pregnancy is the civil registration and vital statistics system (CRVS) which in many countries in sub Saharan Africa still doesn’t have adequate coverage. If we are to ensure women and girls enjoy the protections provided by the Maputo Protocol and our communities become and remain safe spaces for all, the data gaps and the unavailability of data to stakeholders needs to be addressed.

At AODN, we are working towards this objective. Join us in the Gender Open Data Community forum here or on our channel on YouTube, our Twitter account, Facebook and Instagram.

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