The Legislative Path to End Child Marriage in Burkina Faso
Growing up in Burkina Faso, in our culture, it is a common belief that girls don’t give much to the family. Because girls don’t often work and are not prioritised for education, families consider girls like objects that can be given to create alliances with other, at times more powerful, families which typically results in some financial remuneration for the girl's family. One of the highest forms of dishonour is when a girl has a child out of wedlock so parents often rush to give a girl to marry early so she doesn’t fall victim to this type of scenario.
Why is Child Marriage an Issue?
Every 7 seconds, a girl under the age of 15 is married in the world. According to a recent study, in Burkina Faso, 1 in 2 girls, are married before the age of 18 – 1 in 10 are married before they are even 15. These figures place Burkina Faso among the ten African countries most affected by the phenomenon of child marriage, with enormous consequences for the health of girls, but also and above all their education, psychosocial well-being and consequently the country's development potential.
In 2015, a national strategy with three-year action plans for the elimination of the phenomenon was adopted, including a focus on strengthening the national prevention and repression system, which includes the actions of development partners.
When I first started at Save the Children, I was monitoring the situation very closely in regard to the review of the Code of Persons and Families (CPF), a legislative code that in its current state favours child marriage insofar as it authorizes the marriage for girls from the age of 17 with the possibility of an exemption for “serious reasons.” The origins and nature of child marriage has always been a subject of interest for me. As it stands, the CPF is over 30 years old, so it was apparent that in order for Save the Children to remain in accordance with its mandate to promote and defend the rights of children, advocating for the revision of the text needed to become a strategic objective.
Victim of sexual and gender-based violence.
Our Advocacy Steps Thus Far
That is why in 2018, the Burkina Faso country office launched a national campaign to eradicate child marriage alongside other organizations grouped within the national coalition against child marriage in Burkina (CONAMEB).
Our advocacy approaches were broken into two parts: a legislative approach which should enshrine 18 years as the legal age of marriage in Burkina Faso for boys and girls without exception in the new CPF, and a community-based approach that should allow communities, traditional and religious leaders to abandon the practice through awareness-raising and sensitisation of the masses.
There have been a few roadblocks in passing the CPF, namely the rejection of the new text, which sets the minimum age for marriage at 18 years without exception, by the government. This requires further consultations to take into account the opinions of all stakeholders in order to produce a more consensual text.
Asseta* is from a village in western Burkina Faso and was given to marriage at 16. She is deaf and mute and has endured brutal sexual violence from her husband. So, while these discussions are ongoing, the lives of girls like Asseta* are derailed due to lack of education and psychosocial resources to allow her to reintegrate as an operational member of society.
The issue remains in the transparency of discovering exactly why the draft law was rejected. The new reflection is how do we at Save the Children organise internal consultations with our partners to redefine a new strategy now that the code has been adjourned, and map out our next steps. Our meeting on October 11, 2021, the International Day of the Girl Child will be the first step.
The Next Steps For A National Plan to End Child Marriage
Today, our offices and its CONAMEB partners are organizing to ensure that the ultimate consultation between all actors and stakeholders in the process, as recommended by the government, is held so that we can move towards the adoption of this text. To this end, Save the Children has begun discussions and consultations with some of its strategic partners to redefine a new advocacy approach that will allow us to ultimately obtain the adoption of the CPF bill before the end of 2021. Discussions are therefore planned with CONAMEB in this sense and lobbying meetings with other actors are also envisaged.
On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 and the announced visit of the Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children in Burkina Faso, a dialogue meeting will be organized between young girls and decision-makers to support our advocacy agenda for the end of child marriage, in particular, to obtain formal commitments from decision-makers on the follow-up of the CPF review process. The Ministers of Women, Justice and the First Lady of Burkina Faso are expected to attend this dialogue. In addition to this dialogue, a lobbying meeting with the President of Faso is planned to follow up on his commitment to the review of the CPF.