“Child marriage is effectively a mass abuse of human rights. Our position is not only based on moral grounds; it is also based on legal and political grounds,” said Ambassador Mara Marinaki, the European External Action Service’s Principal Advisor on Gender and the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, at a side event on child, early and forced marriage during the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women last month in New York.
The side event, convened by Zonta International and the Mission of the Republic of Niger, brought together governments, UN agencies and NGOs to discuss the necessary social systems, public services and infrastructure required to empower adolescent girls to say no to child, early and forced marriage, complete their education and realize their full potential.
The discussion was opened by Mme. Zeinabou Adam Elback, Niger’s Minister of Women’s Promotion & Protection of Children, who shared her government’s commitment to ending child marriage and some of the recent successes in Niger. “The Niger Government, at the highest level, has fought to reduce child marriage. There is a community effort in four regions of our country. There, it is the responsibility of the community to change the behavior within the community. As a result, 1,022 marriages were annulled and the girls returned to school. These results were achieved thanks to the engagement of the parents and community leaders.”
Nankali Maksud, Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, spoke to the importance of national action plans to end child marriage, which are cost-associated and budgeted, a point which was also emphasized by Nora O’Connell from Save the Children “Even once laws are passed…20,000 girls are married illegally every day. That’s over 7.5 million each year. So clearly passing laws is not enough. When you are talking about a complex issue like ending child marriage, you need to look across the government budget on what are those issues, so what you are really talking about is gender budgeting,” said Nora.
Zonta International President Susanne von Bassewitz spoke to civil society’s power and effectiveness in addressing large-scale issues like child, early and forced marriage. “Civil society partners can actively engage in ending child marriage. We are equipping our members with resources to address the issue of child marriage with their governments.”
Watch the full discussion on UN Web TV.