Source: All Africa
Civil society organisations have called on stakeholders to fight for legislation that provides support and education assistance for young girls that fall pregnant.

The call was made at a Civil Society Consultative Dialogue on Ending Child, Early and Forced Marriage in Africa at the 24th African Union Summit for 2015 in Ethiopia.

The event was hosted by AU Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage -- a Zimbabwean -- Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda at the side-lines of the on-going AU Summit. Cooperating partners like Girls Not Brides, UN Women, Plan International and others pledged to provide resources to scale-up efforts to end child marriages.

The AU Goodwill Ambassador said child marriage was a development, human rights and safety issue for girls.

"Every year, about 15 million adolescent and teenage girls are married around the world, always forced into the arrangement by their parents," Gumbonzvanda said.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of girls are married by age 18, which translates to two in every five girls. There are 41 countries world-wide with a child marriage prevalence rate of 30% or more. Of these 41 countries, 30 are from Africa.

A child bride ambassador, Loveness Mudzuru from Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support (Roots) -- a Zimbabwean organisation -- shared her experiences of being a child bride and how her dreams to pursue education ended when she fell pregnant at 15.

She was backed up by Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, another teenager who was also a child bride. The two young girls made a landmark application when they challenged the Constitutional Court early this year to ensure the protection of children's rights. They challenged the Customary Marriages Act which allows 16-year-old girls to get married.

Although Zimbabwe is a signatory to many international treaties and conventions such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) child marriage is still a big issue.

The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mustapha Kaloko committed to scale-up efforts and expand the AU Campaign to end child marriages which was launched in two countries in 2014 to eight other states in Africa including Zimbabwe.

Also speaking at the event, Francoise Moudouthe of Girls Not Brides stated that if action was not taken now, the number of child marriages would double by 2050.

"Africa will become the region with the highest number of child brides in the world and so concerted efforts are needed if the scourge is to be ended," she said

Meanwhile, partners including Girls Not Brides, UN Women, and Forum for African Women Educationalists (Fawe) and Plan International made commitments to provide resources to scale-up efforts to end child marriages.

The AU Summit this year is running under the theme, Year of Women's Empowerment and Development Towards Africa's Agenda.

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