To honor the Day of the African Child, the Zonta Club of Cotonou, Benin, participated in a UNICEF-sponsored advocacy event to launch the Zero Tolerance campaign to fight child marriage.
"In most African societies, marriage extends beyond the couple, sealing the union between two families," UNICEF states. "As such, certain parents or guardians force their children to marry before they are physically or psychologically mature. Poverty, poor levels of education, and the prevalence of traditions and belief systems, along with a general culture of impunity, are all tied to the continued practice of child marriage.
According to UNICEF, "Among the 700 million women around the world who are victims of forced marriage, more than one in three - or 250 million - were married before the age of 18. In Central and Western Africa, two in five girls (41 percent) marry before reaching their 18th birthday. In Benin, one in 10 girls is married under the age of 15 and three out of ten girls are married before they are 18 years old."
The steps of the campaign include:
- Implement the national campaign to change individual and social behavior by focusing on child marriage;
- Promote social dialogue on social standards and contributing to social change and adopt positive behaviors that protect children
- Strengthen the capacity of communities to prevent sexual abuse and abuse, especially child marriage
- Promote partnerships with local radio, media and civil society organizations with a view of strengthening advocacy on child protection
- Promote partnerships with religious and traditional leaders to foster dialogue and renegotiation of social norms that perpetuate the practice of child marriage