AWEPA Flanders brings Child Marriage into the Spotlight

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AWEPA Flanders brings Child Marriage into the Spotlight

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Flanders, Belgium – Flemish AWEPA Head of Section and Senator Hon. Johan Verstreken asked the Flemish Minister President and Minister of Policy and Heritage Hon. Geert Bourgeois, which measurements the Flemish government takes to stop the increase of forced child marriages worldwide and especially in Mozambique, one of the Flemish government’s partner countries.

AWEPA has adopted Child Marriage as a priority work area because it strongly believes that Parliamentarians as custodians of democracy and human rights and as representatives of the voice of the people, including the girl child, have a central responsibility to enact legislation, pass budgets and hold their government to account.

During the Committee for Foreign Policy, European Affairs, International Cooperation, Tourism and Heritage in the Flemish Parliament, Mr. Verstreken mentioned:

“The number of forced child marriages was unfortunately still rising in the year 2014, despite the increased international attention. According to Plan’s Belgium report ‘Child and Forced Marriage: a blind spot in the Belgian Development Cooperation?’, recent international figures show that more than 60 million women between 20 and 24 years were married before their  18th year, or often before their 15th year.

That equates to 39,000 women per day, or 27 girls per minute. These women are confronted daily with violence and oppression, while they are denied their right to education and development.

Two years ago, I was in Mozambique. At a local market, a hundred kilometers away from the capital, I saw children running around with other children in their hands. When I asked if that was their sister or brother, I was told, “no, it is my child” – and they were just 14 years. The most flagrant case was even someone of 11 years. It was a very hard confrontation.

Although, child marriages have a huge impact on the personal and social life, the international cooperation sector has remained silent on this issue for decades.  The theme of forced Child Marriage is not included in the Country Strategy II for Development Cooperation between Mozambique and Flanders, 2011-2015. Is there an explanation? To what extent the Flemish development contributes in the fight against forced child marriages in Mozambique? “

Hon. Geert Bourgeois, Minister President of the Flemish government and Minister of Foreign Policy and Heritage, recognized the problem of forced child marriage not being literally included in the Country Strategy between Mozambique and Flanders.

Among others, Hon. Bourgeois highlighted that, “the Flemish government helps the World Health Organization and UNAIDS to support sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. Both organizations work to decrease the number of child marriages. Last year UNAIDS made up a strategy to fight against HIV/AIDS between young people from 15 to 24 years. Married and unmarried women and girls need to have access to contraceptives. The WHO examines child marriages and formulates concrete policy recommendations. The Flemish government also supports UNICEF, one of the most important fighters for actions against child marriages, with 250.000 euro ‘core support’ every year. The Flemish government also supports Forum Mulher with 340.000 euro, an NGO which guards women rights and Child Marriage in Mozambique. Finally, the Flemish government works together with Pathfinder International that gives support to 5 youth organizations. One of them Nova Vida, has special activities against forced child marriages.”

Read the full report of the intervention(in Dutch) here.