"My name is Fatou Bintou, I'm 17 and I'm here today to be the voice and the heart of the children of Senegal."
Child marriage is a fundamental violation of children's rights, risking their lives and health and compromising their future and their welfare. In Senegal, 26.4% of girls under age 18 become pregnant.
The prevalence is even higher in some regions such as Kolda (68%), Tambacounda (57%), Matam (56%), and Louga (47%). The phenomenon is more pronounced in rural areas (49.3%) than in urban areas (16.9%) and more common in poor households. A study conducted by World Vision in 2014/2015 in its intervention zones shows the percentage of girls who were married before the age of 16 in the following regions: Fatick 10.2%, Kaffrine 26.5%, Kolda 37.9%, Kédougou 19.2 %.
In an attitudinal study carried out by the Ministry of the Family in Senegal in 2017, 46% of respondents said that, according to them, the girl can be given in marriage from 18 years, 40% said girls can be married between 14 and 17 years of age, and 7% before 14 years old.
"I am here today to be the voice and the heart of all the children of Senegal, Africa and the whole world, because we girls have our voice in the fight to eradicate the Violence against children.
In this sense, children around the world are increasingly exposed to all forms of maltreatment that can seriously affect them in the future. That is why, as far as I know, I am going to talk about violence against children in my country, Senegal and, more specifically, I will focus on early marriage. I have noticed that this is one of the most frequent cases of violence in our communities.
In Senegal, violence against children is numerous and varied. Begging, especially with the talibés (children who study in the Koranic schools), rapes, incest, often hidden excrescences, non-registration of children at birth due to parents' negligence, and the worst form of Child labor especially in the Kédougou mines.
The care of child victims of violence is often a problem in Senegal. 82% of recent incidents of violence are rape and 18% are incest cases. Most of these victims continue to suffer because of poor medical, educational and legal care, " says Fatou.
Moreover, in Senegal, child marriage has become a widespread phenomenon. Each year, millions of girls are married, sometimes even before they reach the age of 15. Nearly one in three girls is married before their 18th birthday and have already had pregnancies. Thus, Senegal has a national prevalence rate of 33%.
The phenomenon is more pronounced in rural than in urban areas and more common in poor families. In Senegal, there are many legal mechanisms to punish the perpetrators of violence against children, but the application is lacking.
Early married girls are vulnerable to violence, abuse and risky pregnancy. In Senegal, the mortality of young mothers under 20 and their babies is very high. Married girls often drop out of school as soon as they become pregnant. A situation that Fatou knows well because having frequent comrades in such a situation.
"A 13-year-old girl from my community in CM2 class had an opportunity during an awareness campaign to send a heartfelt cry on forced marriages by saying" no to children's marriage, .... ". At the same time her father was giving her in marriage. 3 months later, she became pregnant and died following an abortion of pregnancy of 3 months.
One of my comrades, aged 16, was given in marriage by his grandfather, because he thought to protect her from unplanned pregnancies. She revolted, but her whole family abandoned her.Being unhappy, she eventually accepted the marriage and saw the worst forms of abuse from her husband today, "says Fatou.
In order to put an end to these abuses in his community, Fatou works with the local committee for the protection of children called CLPE and the CAVE in the villages. It also sensitizes its comrades, adults and authorities on the various abuses against children. "I am also a peer educator, meaning that I have been trained to educate my classmates on topics such as handwashing, body hygiene, and early marriage."
The child abuse is intolerable, so some solutions and recommendations can be found to fight against this violence. However, this struggle requires the commitment of all. As Ban Ki Moon said: "Do not remain silent, when you witness violence against girls, do not just do nothing, act".