African states, collectively and individually, have taken important and diverse legal measures to reduce and even eliminate violence against women and girls. However, harmful beliefs and social norms constitute a major obstacle to the effectiveness of these measures. Information and statistical data on violence are not always available and even if they are, they are not integrated through a system that allows their sharing and accessibility to the general public and other interested actors (decision-makers, researchers, consultants, etc.).
Violence against women and girls takes many forms : they are physical, sexual, psychological or economical.
Some of the forms of violence such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and psychological violence are highlighted because of their occurrence in the sub-region and their particularly heavy negative impact on women and girls and on the development of communities. Furthermore, the links between certain forms of violence and sexual and reproductive rights lead to greater emphasis on the latter in the fight to eradicate violence against women and girls.
The prevalence of child marriage in West Africa is 41%, which means that four out of ten girls and young women, or nearly 60 million, were married before the age of 18. However, these figures mask significant disparities between countries and even within countries. The region includes four of the ten countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, each with a rate of more than 50 percent. The prevalence of child marriage under age 15 is also very high: reaching 14 percent region-wide and even over 25 percent in Nigeria. Niger has the highest prevalence in the world with 4.1 million girl- wives.  As with most gender-based violence, child marriage is fueled by a multitude of beliefs and norms that legitimize and perpetuate it. When factors such as poverty, misinterpretation of religious texts, and teenage pregnancies are compounded, the prevalence of this scourge explodes. This is the case in West Africa.
-Excision and female genital mutilation
While the United Nations Plenary Assembly solemnly declared itself in favor of the eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM) in December 2012, the fight against this form of gender discrimination is still far from being generalized. FGM touches on issues of discrimination, human rights and the right to health, as well as public health issues in terms of risk prevention for the small girl and sexual, reproductive and maternal health for women who have undergone FGM.
Although the prevalence of FGM is slowly but steadily declining in almost all countries, it is highly likely that the absolute number of girls subjected to the practice will continue to increase, since most of the communities concerned are also characterized by high population growth. The rate of girl victims of FGM in West Africa ranges from 94% (Guinea-Conakry) to 15.3% (Nigeria) . Today, consistent research has shown that FGM is a means of controlling a woman’s body. Excision appears to be a ritual practice that legitimizes the difference between the sexes, a difference that is systematically inscribed in unequal social relations8: excision aims to devirilize the woman to reduce her power, in contrast to circumcision, which over-virilizes the man to increase his power9. It constitutes a risk to reproductive health as well as a violation of human rights with devastating consequences for women and girls and should therefore be retained as one of the issues of concern in the sub-region.
They are more insidious, permanent violence and cause significant emotional damage, diminish self-esteem and often plunge women into a state of depression or even suicide. It is asymmetrical violence where the aggressor believes that his behavior is justified by the behavior (real or supposed) of his partner. Jealousy and control of movements are part of it. These methods lead to a transfer of responsibility to the victim, who ends up believing herself responsible for triggering the violence. They also manifest themselves by insults of all kinds. Psychological violence against women and girls is very common in West Africa and they can even be victims of it in public places. It is often perpetrated by intimate partners and in most cases is a prerequisite for physical violence.
- Our work
The network has invested in the empowerment and respect of girls’ rights through projects. These include
- Action Research Project: “Combating early marriage through girls’ empowerment in West Africa
Financial partner: International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Countries: Mali, Niger, Togo.
Objective: To contribute to the reduction of early marriage through the generation of new knowledge and sustainable alternatives and the promotion of the wide use of this new knowledge on early marriage in West Africa.
- A Baseline Study in the three (3) countries: Mali, Niger, Togo;ans One (1) comparative consolidated report available
- 260 girls and 100 boys trained as actors of change in the fight against early marriage in 3 countries;
- At the end of the project 237 girls and 90 boys trained; remained motivated;
- Three (03) training modules (Vol I) developed at national level in Niger, Mali and Togo are available and One (01) sub-regional training module (Vol II), available
- Three (03) national policy briefs and one (01) sub-regional policy brief entitled « CHILD MARRIAGE in Mali, Niger and Togo: To Get off the Beaten Track to a Better Act » prepared for the targeted decision makers.
- 30,558 people, including 8,182 young girls, 8,325 women, 7,026 young boys and 7,025 approximately affected by the outreach activities
- Twenty-two (22) cases of early marriage in Niger, fifteen (15) cases in Mali and seven (7) in Togo were denounced and treated.
- 90 boys trained have changed their mentality towards early marriage and have committed themselves alongside young girls against the practice.
- Advocacy action by young people in Niger, with neighbourhood chiefs on the need to act to contribute to the reduction of early marriages, violence against women, prostitution, fistula
- In Mali, an elected representative made a commitment to include the issue of early marriage in the action plan of her municipality
- 90 traditional and religious leaders participated in the national forums and made commitments to fight effectively against the phenomenon.
- Panels organised at African Union meetings
- The influence in January 2019 of the regional (ECOWAS) child policy and its strategic action plan (2019-2030), and the regional roadmap for the prevention and response to child marriage.
- Early marriage in Mali, Niger, and Togo : data from studies in local communities developed by IRDC
- Project: « Enhancing the capacity of young girls committed to the eradication of child marriage in West Africa »
Financial partner : African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF)
Countries : Mali. Togo
Objective : Strengthening and organising girl activists and mobilising other strategic actors to contribute to the eradication of child marriage in 2 West African countries
- 60 girls strengthened at the heart of the project
- 9% of the girls trained have strengthened their legal skills and knowledge against for an initial target of 90%;
- 8% of the girls trained acquired new knowledge in reproductive health for an initial target of 90%;
- 8% of the girls trained undertook actions towards the eradication of GBV for an initial target of 90%.
- 65% of the traditional and religious leaders mobilised took action to change customs and stop child marriage in their locality for an initial target of 60%: abandonment of four (4) customs identified (two traditional norms per country) by girls and communities as favourable to the practice of child marriage in Mali and Togo, sanctioned by the signing of declarations in Tamongue, Lama-Tessi and Kayes
- 24 girls whose rights have been abused have accessed the multi-faceted support services they need through referral from girl leaders ;
- 12 groups of girl leaders are operational for a target of 12, i.e. 100% ;
- 9 denunciations of child marriages by girls were recorded during the project period
- 32 actions undertaken by the communities themselves to denounce child marriages
- 12 vulnerable girls and/or victims of child marriage assisted.
- Community, media and digital awareness campaigns on child marriage and COVID-19 ;
- Intergenerational dialogue : About a hundred community actors, namely township chiefs, neighbourhood chiefs, marriage counsellors, godmothers of marriages, traditional canvassers, association representatives, girl leaders, and young boy leaders took part in an intergenerational dialogue in order to create spaces for dialogue to discuss the customs that have a negative impact on child marriage ;
- Development of an action plan following the Intergenerational dialogue meetings
- Putting up signs in localities covered by the project to raise awareness against child marriage ;
- Project : « The Sahel regional programme on increasing the organisational capacities of regional CSOs and youth networks »
The Sahel regional programme focuses on increasing the organisational capacities of regional CSOs and youth networks (e.g. gender analysis, policy analysis, and quality of cross border protection services) in order to effectively engage ECOWAS and other actors to influence social and political change on Ending Child Marriage and Children on the Move in the Sahel. This will be done by identifying regional CSOs and youth networks to work with and assess their organisational capacities, including specific relevant organisational and technical capacities to advocate for ending child marriages and for the protection of children on the move. We will support research on ending child marriages being presented and youth-friendly tools designed in order to create pathways for social change across the Sahel. The youth-friendly tools are envisaged to be used by local CSOs and networks in the countries in the Sahel (e.g. under the interventions designed under Lot CIV for country programmes like Mali and Burkina Faso). We will also support youth-identified and youth-led research and innovative ideas for protection of children on the move across the Sahel, with a strong focus on communications functionalities. This may include cross border protection mechanisms, which have been identified as missing links in the Sahel. The Sahel regional programme will address SDGs : 5. Gender equality (5.1, 5.2, 5.3), 8. Decent work and economic growth (8.7), 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions (16.2, 16.7), and 17. (17.9, 17.17).
Fanancial partner : Save The Children
Country : Sahel
Objective : to contribute to strengthen regional CSOs and empower youth networks in the Sahel to protect children on the move and end child marriage.
- A Mapping of Interventions and Power Analysis in the Sahel ;
- 3 Policy Papers available :
“Teenage pregnancy : An important factor of child marriage”,
” Child Marriage and Gender Social Norms “,
” Do islam and Christianity influence Child Marriage” ?
- WiLDAF staff training in child protection policy
- Adoption of an action plan by the organisations following the strengthening of the capacity of actors in the Sahel to work effectively on the issue of combating child marriage ;
- Participation and advocacy at the second girls’ summit to end child marriage in Africa organized in Niger ;
- Film “AICHATOU” produced and broadcast in French, English, Barbara to change social norms ;
- A comic book entitled « Married too soon’’on child marriage procuded and disseminated ;
- Set up of virtual reading clubs for the comic book ;
- Good Practice “Sharing what works for the successful ending of child marriage” procuded and disseminated ;
- Participation in January 2019, the adoption of the regional child policy and its strategic action plan (2019-2030), and a roadmap on ending child marriage in the ECOWAS region
- Production and dessemination of a Policy brief and an infographic from the ECOWAS roadmap on ending child marriage in West Africa ;
- Two (2) televised debates organized in Burkina Faso and Senegal for awareness raising ;
- Three (3) sessions of Policy Dialogue held in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for advocacy prupose and awareness raising ;
- Awareness-raising activities for young people and parents in the Sahel countries (Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo on child marriage ;
Participation and advocacy at the girls’ summit to end child marriage Advocacy at the girls’ summit in Africa organised in togo in 2021.
 UNFPA, UNICEF, Child marriage in West and Central Africa, 2018
 UNFPA, Analysis of Legal Frameworks Relating to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Selected West African Countries. January 2018