A statement from the ECOWAS Commission’s Communication Department in Abuja on Wednesday, says the ministers also made a political declaration during a one-day ministerial meeting held at the weekend in the Nigerian capital over the adoption of the ECOWAS Child Policy and its Strategic Action Plan (2019-2023).
During the meeting the regional ministers resolved “to promote the retention of all children in formal or alternative quality education systems up to the age of 18 in a compulsory and progressively free manner.”
According to ECOWAS, the ministers urged the inclusion of “gender-sensitive educational policies and programs that address issues of gender stereotyping, gender-based violence and child marriage.”
In order to ensure that the rights of children are protected, the
ministers also stressed the need for cooperation on all levels, both regional and national, to mobilize financial and technical support for planning, implementing laws and policies, monitoring and evaluation, as well as accountability for measures taken to end child marriage.
The ECOWAS Commission Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, during the meeting, reiterated the body’s commitment to prioritizing, mobilizing and allocating the necessary resources to address the multi-faceted issues affecting children in West Africa.
The Commissioner stated that child marriage is a good example of problems that persist in West Africa.
“Available data shows the prevalence of child marriage in ECOWAS to be about 42 percent among girls and three percent among boys,” she said.
Also making remarks at the ministerial meeting, the representative of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Mohamed Fall, enthused that with the adoption of the ECOWAS Strategic Framework for strengthening child protection systems and the update of the ECOWAS Child Policy, the regional bloc is emerging at the forefront of African institutions that promote and protect the rights of the child.
The ministerial meeting ended with the ministers adopting the reviewed ECOWAS Child Policy and Strategic Action Plan and the roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage which will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and subsequently to ECOWAS’ Authority of Heads of States and Government for approval, the release concludes.