21 June 2024 - Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone bans child marriage following campaign joined by girls across the country and Save the Children

Two girls in Sierra Leone holding hands

Kpemeh* and Kuji*, Save the Children campaigners against child marriage in Sierra Leone. Photo by Shona Hamilton/Save the Children. More content available here

FREETOWN, 21 June 2024 – Sierra Leone has passed a historic bill to ban child marriage after girls across the country and Save the Children joined a campaign to criminalise the widespread practice. 

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2024 seeks to criminalise the act of marrying or entering into a union with a child under the age of 18. It includes provisions for enforcing penalties on offenders, protecting victims’ rights, and ensuring access to education and support services for young girls affected by early child marriage. 

Sierra Leone has one of the highest child marriage, early pregnancy and maternal mortality rates in the world, with about one-third of girls married before the age of 18, and another third giving birth before the age of 19, according to the Ministry of Health 

Earlier this year, 19-year-old Kuji*, a campaigner with Save the Children, told the child rights organisation how she managed to stop her 15-year-old cousin Kpemeh*’s marriage and support her to return to school. This led to Kpemeh* also training to be a Save the Children champion and joining her cousin in successfully campaigning to all the chiefs in their district in eastern Sierra Leone to ban the practice.  

Kpemeh* said:“Those of us who are under 18 should steer clear of early marriage. Whenever I share this message, people listen and abandon such practices.” 

Patrick Analo, Save the Children Sierra Leone Country Director, said: “This is a historic moment and an extraordinary achievement for children across Sierra Leone who have campaigned for their rights. 

“Girls who are married young are not only robbed of their childhoods – they are robbed of their futures. They experience lifelong harm to their physical and mental health; are barred from opportunities to learn, grow, play and develop; shut out from future educational and economic opportunities that also impact their families and communities.  

“Children have now stood up and said: “Give us our futures back.” And thanks to them, this will be a new reality for nearly four million children across Sierra Leone.” 

As well as training child marriage champions across Sierra Leone, Save the Children has worked with First Lady Fatima Maada Bio, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, and other organisations to end child marriage in the country.   

The Office of the First Lady said the Bill will address enforcement challenges by establishing penalties for violations and calling upon community leaders to support its implementation actively. By strengthening existing laws and enhancing their enforcement, the bill seeks to create a more protective environment for children, particularly girls. 

Save the Children has been working in Sierra Leone since 1999, initially focusing on family reunification during the war. Now the organisation’s primary areas of focus are children’s rights and protection, education, and health. 


Content available here

For more information please contact: 

Emily Wight, Emily.Wight@savethechildren.org; 

Kunle Olawoyin, Kunle.Olawoyin@savethechildren.org; 

Our media out of hours (BST) contact is media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409


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