Africa: Ouagadougou Declaration on child marriages

Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls
The declaration calls upon governments to end child marriages.
Participants representing six African countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan) and the Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls recently met in Ouagadougou to urge governments and the international community to put an end to early and forced marriage.
WLUML participates in the inter-agency Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls which was set up in 1998 to share experiences of research and programme work about the impacts of marriages on the rights of women and girls, and to identify common agendas for advocacy and policy development at a national, regional and international level.

The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls is a network of organizations that are working together to address ongoing violations of girls' and women's human rights in relation to marriage. Much of their work has concentrated on raising awareness of the issue and educating parents and children about the negative aspects of early and forced marriages.

The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls also works with governments and local organizations to put an end to child marriages. Their efforts include urging governments that have not already done so to increase the legal age of marriage, which in most countries is 18. (The 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] defines childhood as lasting until age 18.)


That child and forced marriage is an endemic practice in most parts of Africa which impacts adversely on the personal development, health and wellbeing of girls, with detrimental consequences on girls, women, families, communities and nations at large.

That this practice of girl child marriages is a public health concern which impairs the sexual and reproductive lives of girls and women, and violates their right to life. Girls and women who are married early have a higher rate of maternal mortality and morbidity and suffer disproportionately from obstetric fistulas and HIV/AIDS. They are also often ostracised by their families.

That while poverty and socio-cultural reasons are the primary contributing factors that push parents and guardians to marry girls at an early age, the resulting denial of education and access to vocational and life skills disproportionately affects girls from poor, marginalised, rural and less-educated families and communities. Thus poverty becomes a cause and consequence of child and forced marriages.

That child and forced marriages violate a number of human rights conventions and Declarations that most African governments have signed and or ratified. Namely the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, as well as the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

And call on Governments and International Development Agencies to recognise the efforts being made by civil society organisations in addressing the concerns and situation of girls and women affected by child marriages by providing the necessary support and resources to respond to the challenges posed by child and forced marriages.

That our Governments and the African Union adopt a clear and unambiguous position on child and forced marriages and rectify the legislative loopholes between religious, customary and civil marriages, and sign the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and ensure that special measures are taken to help end this practice.