Kenya joins 18 other Africa Union (AU) member states in commiting to end child marriages by officially launching a National Action Plan meant to accelerate efforts that prohit marriages below the age of eighteen.
Other countries that have already launched this aggressive and symbolic campaign include Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, DRC, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, Eritrea and The Gambia.
Dignitaries from Kenya and Africa, civil societies, women, men, girls and boys from all corners of the country congregated at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) Nairobi to take part in the big milestone as they marked the International Women’s Day- With the theme; #BeBoldForChange
First Lady of Kenya Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta led the Nation in the unveiling of the campaign. In her speech Margaret said ‘ My administration will show zero tolerance to violence and discrimination against women and girls’, Said Margaret. ‘Let us join hands to make Kenya a freer and safer country for not only for our women and girls but for all citizens’ She added.
Her Excellency also unveiled a parallel campaign by the Government of Kenya and the United Nations Program to End Gender Based Violence (GBV). She further unveiled a campaign, Jitokeze 1195; meaning ‘speak out’ a call to action for all Kenyans to speak out and work towards prevention of GBV. (1195 is a toll free number that Kenyans can call in response to a GBV incident)
Mustapha Kaloko, Social Affairs Africa Union Commission stated that approximately 14M girls are married every year before they reach 18 years,One in three girls in the developing world is married by the age of eighteen and one in nine by the age of 15, some as young as eight and nine. He assured the continent that he will mobilise continental effort to end this current scenario. He emphasized on the need for education as 60% of child brides in developing countries have no formal education.
The UN secretary General Antonio Guterres who was on an official visit in the country graced the celebration. He congratulated Kenya and Africa for concert efforts to combat child marriage, a culture that impedes gender equality. He began by pointing out that everywhere in the world there is male dominance and that to attain gender equality such barriers need to be broken! He said that he envisions a society where competent men and women acess equal opportunities.
‘ Prosperity of a country depend on full integration of women and girls’. He said. Gender equality is important to any society that considers itself developed!,’ Added Mr.Guterres
He summarized by reinforcing that in order to achieve AU Agenda 2063, the continent needs to commit to gender equality.
Sicily Kariuki, Minister in Charge of Gender and Youth affairs acknowledged everyones’ commitment noting that FGM and GBV continue to be stumbling blocks towards the noble ideal of advancing and attaining gender equality. She spelled out that her docket is committed to ensuring that Female Genital Mutilation and child marriages come to an end.
In Kenya, despite the strong legal framework which puts the minimum age of marriage at 18 for both girls and boys, the practice of early marriage persists. Girls are disproportionately affected and prevalence is highest in most deprived parts of the country.
The Kenya Demographic Health survey 2014 shows that prevalence is highest in Northern Kenya (56%), followed by coast (41%) Nyanza (32%), Rift Valley (30%), Western (27%), Eastern (18%), Central (17%) and Nairobi (7%)
Both FGM and child marriage require addressing the underlying social norms that accord little value to girls by engaging with communities to change attitudes and mindsets.
Most importantly, Ending Child Marriage requires action at all levels and across sectors!
Let us all #BeBoldForChange