THE First Ladies of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have affirmed their commitment to end child marriages and promote girl-child education in the region.
The First Ladies, who met on Sunday, July 7, on the margins of the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit in Niamey, Mali, said that the meeting was aimed at reinforcing their commitment to end child marriage and promote the education of the girl-child in West Africa.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, who chaired the panel discussion, highlighted that 40% of girls in the ECOWAS region marry before the age of 18 and among the 40%, about 18% are out of school.
Brou said the situation was critical as it affects the GDP of the region because of out-of-school girls, who cannot play their role as actors of development.
He added that, if the Region must develop, then the education of all girls has to be realised.
He called for sensitization at community and grassroots level, taking advantage of religious and traditional institutions as major stakeholders in the campaign.
In his remarks, Issoufou Mahamadou, President of Niger and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, commended all the First Ladies for the different programmes they are implementing in their countries.
The best tool to fight early marriage, according to President Issoufou, is for young girls to be retained in school.
He added that a country cannot develop by keeping 50% of its population out of school.
He assured the First Ladies of all the support of the other Heads of State in the implementation of “the Niamey Declaration”.
A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Monday noted that apart from signing “The Niamey Declaration of ECOWAS First Ladies: Call to End Child Marriage and to promote the Education and empowerment of Girls”,one of the highlight of the meeting was the interactive panel discussion on Educating the Girl-Child and Ending Child Marriage in West Africa, which was chaired by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.