The First African Girls' Summit on Ending Child Marriage in Africa brings African policy makers, including some government heads, to Lusaka to tackle a practice seen as robbing girls of their future and as a barrier to development.
Previously, the venue was listed as Niger, a country ranked lowest by the United Nations for development and with the highest rates of child marriage in Africa.
The continuing fight against child marriage and other harmful traditional practices affecting girls and women in Africa ties in with the African Union's theme for 2015 - Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063. The AU has adopted a coordinated approach to ending the practice.
Projections from the African Union Campaign to End Child marriage in Africa show that if nothing is done in the next decade, 14.2 million girls under 18 years will be married every year. The figure translates into 39,000 girls married each day. If this trend continues, the number of girls under 15 giving birth is expected to rise from 2 million to 3 million by 2030, in Africa. The campaign notes that these figures represent a looming catastrophe for a fast-developing continent.
The practice is entrenched in many developing countries. The Girls Not Brides organization observes that every two seconds around the world a girl is married before she is physically or emotionally mature enough to become a wife or a mother. Physical immaturity can lead to the devastating problem of fistula, a gynaecological condition that can lead to severe infection and incontinence. In Niger and many other countries, the marriage of young girls is a social norm and is given explicit backing by religious leaders. Illiteracy and poverty help perpetuate the practice.
Some of the groundwork for the 2015 conference, taking place was laid at the 2014 London Girls Summit, where the practice was addressed as one that impinges on or contravenes the rights and welfare of the child, in particular the girl-child.
Date written/update: 2015-10-21