Combatting early marriages by empowering girls in West Africa
In additional to its illegal nature, early marriage results in a chain of negative consequences for girls who are its victims and represents a major barrier to the economic and social development process. However, West Africa, one of the world's poorest regions, is home to half of the world's 10 countries with the highest prevalence of early marriage. Niger and Mali are at the top of the scale, reporting a prevalence of 77% and 61%, respectively. As well, 36% of girls in Niger are married before age 15, and 75% before age 18. Despite the existence of national, global, and continental legal frameworks, most countries in the region, including Mali and Niger, have not complied with the requirement of a minimum age for marriage of 18 years. Even in Togo, where the legislation complies with international law, there are significant pockets of resistance to change. In this case, policies and programs have been developed by pubic authorities to combat these practices; however, according to recent assessments, they are often not informed of the evidence. Moreover, the strategies developed to search for solutions do not take into account the girls or social stakeholders such as religious and traditional leaders. Against this background, WiLDAF/FeDDAF (Women in Law and Development in Africa / Femmes, Droit et Développement en Afrique) and its partners will produce evidence through participatory research-action-training. This evidence will be used in a context of overlapping formal and informal systems to develop effective strategies and tools to empower girls and turn keepers of traditions into strategic allies that will effectively prevent and combat early marriages in Mali, Niger, Togo, and throughout the region.