Gambia: Child Marriage Remains Serious Issue

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 6 (MICS6) 2018 findings have disclosed that "child marriage remains a serious issue in the Gambia", adding the most vulnerable population are the most at risk.

This was indicated yesterday, 2nd September 2019 at the launching of the MICS at the Gambia Hotel Training School in Kanifing. MICS is a household survey developed by UNICEF to assist countries in filling data gaps for monitoring the situation of families and households, especially children and women.

It is also a key source of data on child protection, early childhood education, child health, and nutrition for the Gambia decision/ policy makers. The MICS 6 is led by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), and jointly funded by the Government of the Gambia, UNICEF, World Food Programme, and the National Malaria Control Programme.

The key partners and stakeholders in the exercise are National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), the Ministries of Health and Finance and Economic Affairs.

The survey says one in five adolescent girls age 15-19 are currently married, half of whom are in polygynous union.

In addition, it says one in ten married adolescents age 15-19 have a partner who is 10 or more years older, it further stated 15% of men age 20-24 years were first married or in union before age 18.

"Child marriage has severe consequences on child and maternal health, child abuse and on education with a strong link on the perpetuation of the poverty cycle. It should therefore be among the priorities for girls' rights, women's empowerment and development programming", the survey stated.

Fatou Kinteh, Minster of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said currently Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) for the Gambia is 17 %, indicating an improvement compared to the DHS figure of 9% in 2013.

"This change can be attributed to improvement in access to family Planning service over the past few years", she said. She added that overall, 17% of women age 20 to 24 years reported that they were first married or in union before age 18.

This, she said, is a great improvement compared to the 46.5% who were married before age 18 in 2010.

Sandra Lattouf, UNICEF Representative, said "investing on children is, in fact, expressively stipulated in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, under Article 4." She hopes the partnership and collaboration will continue in producing data for development, especially as it relates to children and women of the Gambia, and that the data will facilitate evidence-based discussion to promote children's rights in the country.

The Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) was carried out in 2018 by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics with technical support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as part of the global MICS programme.

The specific objectives of the Gambia MICS 2018 were: to provide high quality data for assessing the situation of children, adolescents, women and household in The Gambia; to validate data from other sources and results of focused interventions; as well as to generate data on national and global SDG indicators, to name just a few.

Marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for many young girls. In many parts of the world, parents encourage the marriage of their daughters while they are still children in hopes that the marriage will benefit them both financially and socially, while also relieving financial burden on the family.

In actual fact, child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising the development of girls and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation.

The right to 'free and full' consent to a marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- with the recognition that consent cannot be 'free and full' when one of the parties involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner.

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