Archbishop Desmond Tutu will visit Zambia from 15-18 September 2014, to support and encourage efforts to end child marriage.
Archbishop Tutu, founding Chair of The Elders and co-founder of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, will be joined by Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides.
Archbishop Tutu said:
“As an African man and a defender of human rights throughout my life, I was shocked to learn that millions of girls are married every year in Africa and worldwide, with devastating consequences. It is essential that we all work together to free our daughters and sisters from this harmful practice. That is why I have decided to give the fight to end child marriage my all – with the same commitment that I gave to the struggle against apartheid.
“I look forward to learning about Zambia’s efforts to end child marriage and to meeting many wonderful people who are working for the rights of girls and women in this country.”
Every year, an estimated 15 million girls around the world are married before they turn 18, often with no choice about when or whom they marry. In total UNICEF estimates that around 700 million women who are alive today were married as children.
While boys can be victims of child marriage, girls are disproportionately affected. Child brides almost always drop out of school and quickly become pregnant, perpetuating cycles of poverty and ill health. Girls under 18 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or labour than women in their early 20s, and their children are much less likely to survive the first years of life. Child brides are also more vulnerable to forced sex and domestic violence.
Child marriage is practised across all religions, ethnicities and continents. The highest rates of child marriage are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of child marriage are declining slowly, but absolute numbers could increase with population growth if efforts are not accelerated.