Dakar, Senegal: A high level meeting on ending child marriage in Western and Central Africa opened today (October 23) in Dakar, Senegal. The meeting is jointly organized by a coalition which includes Save the Children, UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, World Vision, Plan International, Girls Not Brides, the Forum for African Women Educationalists, Women in Law and Development in Africa and Women in Law & Development in Africa.
From 23-25 October, 2017, this meeting brings together representatives from West and Central African governments, civil society, representatives from donor countries, youth advocates and community leaders to discuss the issues, solutions and commit to bringing about a change.
Today’s opening ceremony kicks of with prayers by Al Hajj Sheikh Abu Bakar Conteh, President, Inter-religious Council from Sierra Leone, followed by remarks by Ms. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CSO Representative, H.E. Mrs Ulla Tørnæs, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of Denmark, Mrs. Fatoumata Ndiaye, UN Representative, H.E. Ambassador Olawale Maiyegun, Director for Social Affairs, African Union Commission, H.E. Mrs Sia Nyama Koroma, First Lady of Sierra Leone, H.E. Mrs Sika Bella Kabore, First Lady of Burkina Faso, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary Elizabeth of Denmark and an opening Speech by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Senegal, His Excellency Mr. Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne.
The stated goals of #hlmwca17 (#ENDCHILDMARRIAGE) include:
Build momentum on ending child marriage as an important issue on the development agenda in West and Central Africa,
Strengthen the region’s alignment with commitments made at the continental level through the African Union Agenda 2063 and Common Position on Ending Child Marriage, and at the global level through the Sustainable Development Goals.
Enhance governments and other actors’ understanding of child marriage in West and Central Africa – of its causes and its impact on the realisation of girls’ potential and on the wider development of the region.
Recognise existing progress and solutions, and provide a platform for sharing and learning from successes and challenges in implementing policies and programmes to end child marriage.
According to the coalition responsible for jointly organizing the conference:
“Every seven seconds, a girl under the age of 15 is married. Moreover, six of the top 10 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world are in West and Central Africa. While there has been social and political progress to end this harmful practice, we still need additional and more concerted efforts to accelerate progress and end child marriage in our lifetime.”
Panel Discussions follow the opening ceremony:
Today’s panel discussions are aimed at empowering girls to make their own decisions and reach their full potential, mobilising families and communities towards an enabling social environment, meeting the needs of girls at risk of child marriage and married girls through tailored services and establishing and implementing a robust legal and policy framework to prevent child marriage and support married girls.
Today’s panel participants include Mr. Mabingue Ngom, UNFPA Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Mrs Diana Ofwona, UNWomen Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Prof. Magueye Gueye, University Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang Chair of Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Africa Board, Ms Aslihan Kes Senior Economist at International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Mr. Quentin Wodon, Lead Economist at the World Bank, Hon. Senator Aicha Jummai Alhassan, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Development of Nigeria, Mrs. Anne Brigitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International and a Youth delegate, Mrs. Yadicon Njie-Eribo, National Coordinator, FAWE Gambia, Hon. Otiko Afisah Djabah, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana, Ms Latifatou Sonhaye, Youth Leader from WiLDAF Project in Togo, Hon. Mrs. Sean Abdul Baki, Minister for Gender and Social Protection of Liberia and Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs of Sierra Leone on the political and strategic implications for countries, Esther Lehman, Regional Director, World Vision International and Sheikh Abu Bakar Conteh, President, Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone, Mrs Ousmane Amina Tiemoko, Chief of Staff of the Minister for the Promotion of Women and Child Protection of Niger.
Today’s panel participants also include, Mr. Mahammadou Diallo, President of Association Musulmane pour le salut et la paix from Mali, H.R.H. Queen Fanta Moustafa Moussa, President of Mbororo Women’s Association for Socio Cultural and Economic Development from Cameroon, Bishop Albert Kankenza, President, Eglises de Réveil du Congo from DRC, Ms. Sambo Fati, youth advocate from Burkina Faso, Hon. Mrs. Consuelo Ondo Nzang, Minister of Social Affairs and Equality of Equatorial Guinea and Hon. Mrs. Maimouna Mohamed Taghi, Minister for Social Affairs, Childhood and Family of Mauritania, Hon. Mrs Abena Ondoa née Obama Marie Thérèse, Minister for the Promotion of Women and Family from Cameroun and a Youth delegate, H.E. Mrs. Marietou Koné, Minister for Women, Child Protection and Solidarity from Cote d’Ivoire, Mr. Niokhobaye Diouf, Director for the Promotion of Children’s Rights from Senegal,Mrs. Zoenabo Ouedraogo, Secretary General of FAWE Burkina Faso, H.E. Mrs. Chantal Safu, Minister for Gender, Family and Child Protection from the Democratic Republic of Congo , Hon. Mr. Carlos Alberto Kennedy De Barros, Minister for Women, Family and Social Solidarity of Guinea Bissau, Hon. Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, M. Karim Zina, Director General for the Promotion of Family and Gender from Burkina Faso, Mr. Theophane Nikyema, Executive Director, African Child Policy Forum, Ms Aminata Gba Kamara from the Children Forum Network of Sierra Leone, H.E. Mrs. Adidjatou Mathys, Minister for Social Affairs of Benin and H.E. Mrs. Traore Oumou Toure, Minister for the Promotion of Women, Childhood and Family of Mali.