On the sidelines of the 33rd Summit of the African Union, the first ladies of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Niamey to join their voices together against child marriage on Sunday 7 July 2019. The objective of this meeting was to launch the "Niamey Appeal", a declaration crafted in collaboration with World Vision and other NGOs, to end child marriage, promote the retention in school and education of girls.
The event brought together several high-ranking guests, including the President of the Republic of Niger, the Prime Minister of Niger, the first ladies of Mali, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau and Zimbabwe among other distinguished guests. Yves Habumugisha, National Director of World Vision in Niger and Francine Obura, Regional Communications Director, represented World Vision.
In his speech, the President of the Republic of Niger, His Excellency, Mahamadou Issoufou, showed his commitment to ending child marriage by declaring, "Marrying a 12 year old girl is pedophilia."
A panel of experts, including the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the President of the African Development Bank, the UN Director-General in Nairobi as well as representatives from UNICEF and UNFP, made a case against child marriage and for keeping girls in school. "I was born of a woman. You were born of a woman. So why do we deny women an economic opportunity?" said Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.
In her speech, the host and First Lady of Niger, Dr. Lalla Malika Issoufou, focused on the importance of protecting children in general and the protection of the girl in particular. "We will no longer accept this inhuman and degrading treatment of girls," she said.
At the end of this meeting, the First Lady of Mali, Mrs. Aminatou Keita, officially launched the "Niamey Appeal".