Libreville, Gabon – The 18th Conference of the Network of Women Parliamentarians of Central Africa (RFPAC) took place from 5 to 6 March 2015, in Libreville, Gabon, on the subject of “the Role of Women Parliamentarians in the Protection of Young Girls Facing Early Marriages and Pregnancies.”
The Honourable Speaker of the Parliament of Gabon, Mr Guy Nzouba-Ndama opened the session stating that young girls are nobody’s possession and they have the right to choose their own destiny.
Political coordinator of RFPAC and honorary member of the Belgian parliament, Ms. Magda De Meyer stated that child marriages must be considered as a violation of human rights and that the role of women parliamentarians in the fight against this phenomenon, is crucial.
The session was chaired by Hon. Estelle Flore Angangou, the current president of RFPAC.
During the session on child marriage, there were interventions from Ms. Fatima Zohra Sebbaa, special rapporteur of the African Union on child marriage, Ms. Saa Gado, representative of Plan International in Niger and Hon. Els Van Hoof, member of the Belgian parliament on the action taken by European parliamentarians.
The second theme of early pregnancies was addressed by representative of UNICEF and Minister for Social Welfare of Gabon, Ms. Françoise Dikoumba.
Based on all this information, the women parliamentarians of RFPAC made a list of recommendations in order to prevent child marriage and early pregnancies in their respective countries. The recommendations comprised legislative measures (laws that guarantee 18 as the minimum legal age of marriage for both boys and girls), as well as implementation strategies (national monitoring, raising awareness) and plans regarding the allocation of appropriate technical, financial and human resources. Above all, the improvement of girls’ access to quality education remains crucial, as does the engagement of parents, teachers and religious leaders.
Last but not least, comprehensive information and services regarding sexual and reproductive rights remain essential, and it is crucial to provide support to young girls who are already married.