Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set in motion a move for the adoption of the ECOWAS Child Policy and Plan of Action.
The move will also witness the declaration and roadmap in the prevention and response to child marriage in West Africa.
This followed a meeting of ECOWAS experts, yesterday, in Abuja, to find lasting solutions to issues surrounding children in the sub-region.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne, recalled the adoption of the ECOWAS Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems, to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation against children in 2017, by ECOWAS’ Ministers, and approved by Heads of State and Government in the same year.
Jagne said the strategic framework sets out 10 aspirations and five key priorities for child protection in the sub-region, including the elimination of child marriage.
She added that the priority of immediately eliminating child marriage was a recognition of the unacceptable rates of child marriage in the region, with West Africa having the highest prevalence rates of child marriage in Africa, and the second highest in the world, after South Asia.
Jagne said: “Indeed, six of the 15 ECOWAS countries (Niger: 76 percent, Mali: 55 percent, Burkina Faso: 52 percent, Guinea: 51 percent, Nigeria: 43 percent, Sierra Leone 39 percent), are among the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world; while two ECOWAS countries (Nigeria and Niger) rank among the 20 countries with the largest number of child marriages in the world.