Poverty continues to ravage families in Africa, with most of them living below 700 naira per day.

Although some efforts are being to reduce poverty and population growth, these strategies are not yielding anticipated results.

Cases of insecurity and ethnic nepotism are also on the rise forcing parents to offload their responsibilities to willing suitors.

Once they reach puberty or even before that time, some parents give out these girls in marriage.

This happens more in West and Central Africa.

In Nigeria, however, it happens more in the north.

The World Bank has reiterated its concern that the practice has negative impacts on women and children’s health, educational achievements and earnings.

No parents will want their daughter to become a liability, but more than a third of girls in West and Central Africa are married under the age of 18, with the rate over 50% in six countries and up to 76% in Niger Republic, Nigeria’s neighbour.

Also Read: It Will Take Over 100 Years To End Child Marriage: UNICEF

To address this issue that is hampering progress no matter how little, African political leaders, activists and local chiefs joined forces on Monday to commit to ending child marriage in West and Central Africa.

The conference in Senegal’s capital Dakar, which included government, civil society, and religious representatives from 27 countries, was the first gathering of its kind to address child marriage in the region.

“What we need to end child marriage is a movement,” Francoise Moudouthe of advocacy group Girls Not Brides told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We hope this will be solidified in the region with this meeting.”

World leaders have pledged to end child marriage by 2030 under the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but at current rates it will take over 100 years to end it in West and Central Africa, UNICEF said.

Although the rate of child marriage has declined from 50 to 39% across the region since 1990, population growth means that the number of child brides is still increasing, UNICEF’s regional head of child protection, Andrew Brooks, said.

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“I think the fact that they came is a sign that they’re ready to do something,” said Brooks of the local and national leaders present.

Other activists said they hoped the meeting would result in concrete national action plans.

“We have heard your heartfelt cry,” Senegal’s prime minister, Mohammed Dionne, told the campaigners, who chanted: “No to child marriage” as he took the stage.

Dionne said: “the problem is how to move from vision to action”.

“Beyond the legal framework, what we need today is collective engagement in the search for solutions,” he added.

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