Abuja — The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed commitment to eliminate child marriage in the region through the validation and implementation of its reviewed Child Policy and Plan of Action.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Jagne, at an experts' validation meeting on child policy in Abuja yesterday, said the previous policy, which was based on international frameworks, was approved by the Heads of State in 2008 and covered the period of 2009 to 2013.
The commissioner said the increasing rate of child marriage in West Africa was unacceptable with the sub-region accounting for the highest in Africa and the second highest in the world.
"Indeed, six of the 15 ECOWAS countries, Niger: 76 per cent, Mali: 55 per cent, Burkina Faso: 52 per cent, Guinea: 51 per cent, Nigeria: 43 per cent and Sierra Leone 39 per cent, are among the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
"Two ECOWAS countries, Nigeria and Niger, rank among the 20 countries with the largest absolute number of child marriages in the world," she stated.
She said the review would include the multi-dimensional issues affecting the rights of the child with a focus on the roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage.
She added: "Thus, the ECOWAS Commission, will present to you for validation, the Child Policy and Strategic Plan of Action and a Roadmap on Prevention and Response to Child Marriage, aimed at charting a clear course for the region in dealing with this issue in the coming years."
Jagne, therefore, urged representatives of member-states to scrutinise the texts and consider modalities for implementation at the national and regional levels.
Representative of the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), Mrs. Denise Ulwor, said the review of the ECOWAS child policy would be an opportunity to scale-up action on the regional child rights agenda.
Ulwor said the successful implementation in the plan of action would contribute to efforts to respond effectively to the challenges children are facing in different contexts.
Also, Specialist in Workers Activities, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr. David Dorkenno, said effective implementation of the policy would ensure every child in the region enjoy developmental rights.