African leaders meeting for the 24th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have been urged to come up with a clear road map for the development and empowerment of women in the continent as well as a plan to end child marriages.
“The leaders need to know that the young women and girls are here and they are not a statistic. The leaders need to create time to meet, dialogue, listen and then act,” said AU Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, at the side-lines of the on-going AU Summit.
The summit this year is being held under the theme: Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda.
Gumbonzvanda said she has high respect for African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for putting women empowerment and development high on the agenda of the commission.
“This is part of Africa rising. Africa will not rise as long as its daughters are bleeding and Africa will never be prosperous or at peace with its self if the whole generation is loosing opportunities.”
Gumbonzvanda said her expectation is that the outcome of the summit will have a clear commitment to end child marriages and that child marriage would be a key indicator to monitor the AU’s agenda 2063.
She believes that the practice is a violation of the fundamental rights of girls.
In terms of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) – she said work has begun to prevent and end child marriages through changing attitudes.
“It starts with a simple respect of men respecting girls, fathers respecting daughters, brothers respecting sisters and just going back to that spirit of love and care.”
Another target of the YWCA she added was to ensure that girls remain in school.
“We need to go beyond reading your A, B, C and D and start doing numeracy. We want our girls to get education where they can compete on the international labour market and where they can be entrepreneurs and where they can have choices or which marriage is not a choice for getting a livelihood.”
She said they have started engaging religious and cultural leaders to pull together and end child marriages.