Africa: Make girls’ access to education a reality

(Dakar) – Millions of pregnant and married adolescent girls across many African countries are being denied their education because of discriminatory policies and practices, Human Rights Watch said today, on the Day of the African Child. More than 49 million girls are out of primary and secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa, with 31 million of them out of secondary education, undermining their rights and limiting their opportunities.

Early marriage and teenage pregnancy are significant factors. In sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of girls marry before age 18, and African countries account for 15 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally. The region also has the world’s highest prevalence of adolescent pregnancies. In 14 sub-Saharan countries, between 30 and 51 percent of girls give birth before they are 18. Cultural or religious beliefs often stigmatize unmarried, pregnant girls, with the result that many pregnant girls are forced into early marriages.

“The African continent has one of the world’s highest rates of adolescent pregnancy, but many governments insist on tackling this social and public health challenge by punishing girls and jeopardizing their future,” said Elin Martínez, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Governments should focus on helping girls prevent unintended pregnancies and support their efforts to stay in school.”

Although most sub-Saharan African countries have made commitments to guarantee compulsory primary and lower-secondary education for all children, many exclude or expel pregnant girls and young mothers from school.

SOURCE- Human Rights Watch

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