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African Union strategizes on the termination of child marriage

HomeAYV NewsAfrican Union strategizes on the termination of child marriage

African Union strategizes on the termination of child marriage

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The capacity building workshop was held at the La Palm Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana, as it aimed at engaging media practitioners in West and Central African Stream.

The workshop targeted representatives of major national and private media outlets in Africa, especially those that focused on reporting on development issues and a variety of issues around social behavioural change, national based communication and Advocacy Officers of UN Agencies, INGOs and CSOs.

The overall objective of the workshop was to enhance the capacity of the media to better investigate and report on child marriage issues in Africa, with a key focus on addressing the root causes and the different facets of the issue and challenging all stakeholders towards ending the practice.

The workshop linked the role of the media as key information transmitters in delivering the key tenets of the African Union campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa, the AU’s Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals.

Other objectives assessed during the workshop were to address the impact of child marriage and importance of objective and gender sensitive coverage by the media taking into account cultural sensitivities on child marriage with the intent of promoting change, enhance the capacity of participants to engage and work with other stakeholders in addressing the harmful practices of child marriage, enhance the capacity of the media to better analyse and interpret data on child marriage for advocacy purpose as well as enhance consistent positioning of child marriage in the media, public and public discourse.

Other objectives of the workshop according to the organisers were to disseminate relevance of the references to international standards on non-discrimination and issues pertaining to women’s participation in the media and developing a set of actions to enhance renewed and consistent positioning of the issue at the regional and country levels.

According to the Department of Social Affairs, African Union Commission, several national and international efforts are being made across Africa to put an end to child marriage but that nonetheless, achieving this is not simple.

The Commission enlightened that increasingly, emphasis is being placed on the need to focus attention on the different factors that drive the practice of child marriage thereby demystifying the numerous positions being propagated as reasons why the practice must persist.

Child marriage is a complex issue that is driven by a number of factors in different societies. Gender inequality due to entrenched societal differentiation between males and females, social and economic status, class, ethnicity, caste, sexuality, religion, traditional norms, HIV status and disability among others are major factors.

In patriarchal cultures, where girls lack the same perceived values as boysright from birth, families and communities may discount the benefits of educating and investing in the development of their daughters. Child bribes are a strong reflection of pervasive gender discrimination.

Furthermore, child marriage is a human rights violation and has been included in a number of legal instruments at the continental and international levels. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) defines a child as a person under the age of 17.

The media can be viewed as both complaint and agents of change in the subordination of women and advocating against these harmful traditional practices respectively. Practices such as child marriage are often perceived as customary and considered to occur within traditional and religious contexts. While it is important to put in place the relevant laws, policies and strategies that address child marriage, failure to popularize and enforce these instruments and show the challenges posed by the continuance of the practice on Africa’s socio-economic development, will result in good policies without a proper framework for implementation.

Therefore, the role of the media in galvanizing the needed conversation and engendering the change that needs to happen, cannot be overemphasized.

Though equipped with the knowledge and skills to carryout investigative reporting and considering the array of media outlets on the continent, media reports on child marriage often lacks depth and do not take into consideration, the different sensitivities of the issue. In certain instances, there is the mistrust between the media and child rights advocates, with both sides not understanding each other’s needs, expectations and often finding it hard to work together constructively.

Also, the media is undoubtedly the conduits for delivering information to the society by both traditional and new media platforms. They play a significant role in shaping the perception and social norms through transmission of certain messages. Therefore, ending the harmful practice of child marriage requires engaging the media for increased advocacy on the factors fuelling the practice, the resultant challenges and the benefits of ending the practice, the role of different stakeholders and how to better collaborate in producing the desired change.

The workshop was consultative and interactive with a core team of experts on both child marriage and media engagement who provided context and background to the discussions with presentations. Furthermore, participants from different countries in the west and Central Africa dialogued on effective strategies to enhance how the media takes on the different issues associated with child marriage.

Ayv’s Princetta Williams was among the four media practitioners from Sierra Leone who benefitted from the  training.

A one year action plan was developed by representatives of each of the different countries represented and which is expected to be supported for implementation by partners such as Plan International, UNICEF, UNFPA and others.

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