By Raisa Okwaras
According to the UNICEF June 2022 study report, West and Central Africa stand as the region with the highest rate of child marriages, with approximately 60 million child brides. Out of it, about 20 million became child brides before the age of 15. Also, four in ten girls in the region get married before the age of eighteen.
From the findings, 37 percent of girls in West and Central Africa got married before the age of 18 and 12 percent before the age of 15.
When compared to the rest of the world, Eastern and Southern Africa came second-highest at 32 percent of girls getting married before 18 years, 22 percent in South Asia, 21 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 10 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. East Asia and the Pacific had the lowest prevalence at 7 percent.
Out of the 60 million child brides, Nigeria holds the largest share of about 23.6 million child brides. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) comes second with 7.1 million and Niger is third with 4.8 million child brides. West and Central African regions had a total of seven out of ten countries with the highest levels of child marriage in the world.
Sadly, child marriages among boys are also prevalent in the region. The study shows that 1 in 25 young men in West and Central Africa were first married in childhood. Central African Republic (CAR) had its highest prevalence at 17 percent and Liberia and Chad both came next with 8 percent.
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The study report also shows that most of the girls married before 18 years came from poorer households, In addition, most had little to no education and came from rural areas. For instance, 62 percent came from the poorest homes, 64 percent had no education background, and 51 percent came from rural areas.
Still, Sahel depicted an even higher level of child marriages than the rest of the areas in West and Central Africa. Here, girls and women get married about 2 years earlier than those in the other areas in the region.
At the moment, the region has huge strides to make to reach its SDG targets of eliminating child marriage by 2030. The report projected that at the current rate, about 25 million more girls in West and Central Africa will get married in childhood within the next 10 years.
Original Publication: UNICEF.