Launching a New National Strategy for Preventing Child Marriage in Egypt
With funding from the Ford Foundation, Pathfinder International in Egypt, in conjunction with the National Population Council, launched a new national strategy for preventing child marriage on June 16, 2014. This critical strategy focuses on developing key partnerships between all aspects of the civil, government, and private sectors to promote young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
"This is exactly what we need to galvanize support to protect the sexual reproductive health and rights of young people throughout Egypt."
Remarkable progress has already been made in establishing partnerships between these different sectors. A launch event for the national strategy, organized by the National Population Council and Pathfinder in Egypt, headed by the Minister of Health and Population and the Minister of Planning, included a diverse range of participants, including the Governor of Cairo, the Governor of Fayoum, and the Governor of Beheira, along with the Director of the State Information Service and the Director of Central Agency for Procurement, Mobilization and Statistics, in addition to representatives from the Ministries of Education, Culture, Finance, Labor Force, Awkaf, and the Egyptian Church. Several representatives from national councils, NGOs, research institutions, and private-sector and donor agencies also attended, including those from Al-Azhar University, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and the National Council for Women.
The process itself has been tremendous. By bringing together key ministries, religious leaders, community members, and active national NGOs, Pathfinder is helping create change in support of reproductive rights even before the strategy has been implemented. The process started with a lengthy review of literature and previous experience in Egypt, the Middle East, and across the globe, involving experts to inform the review. This was followed by a participatory process where people contributed to the strategy and the development of an implementation plan.
“It is incredibly encouraging to see such a collaborative energy among different sectors” said Mohamed Abou Nar, Country Representative for Pathfinder International in Egypt. “This is exactly what we need to galvanize support to protect the sexual reproductive health and rights of young people throughout Egypt.”
Preventing child marriage is an urgent issue for the country. There has been a growing threat to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young women, as ultraconservative voices are urging to lower the legal age of marriage from 18 to 9. Currently, approximately 17 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before the age of 18 in Egypt. This figure could rise drastically if such legislation is passed and will have a devastating impact on girls’ lives in Egypt. They will be more likely to leave school, experience domestic violence, have early pregnancies, and endure health complications or die during childbirth. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty. Child marriage directly hinders the achievement of six of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Pathfinder International will also work with the National Population Council to elevate the issue of child marriage within the broader dialogue on progress in achieving the International Conference on Population and Development agenda.
Focus Area: Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health
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“Globally, this marginalized population of young women has unique needs and rights that need to be addressed and acknowledged,” said Callie Simon, a technical advisor for adolescent sexual and reproductive health with Pathfinder International. “Married adolescent girls have so little power and decision-making over their bodies, over their choices, [and] over their lives."