African Leaders Meet in Niger to Support Girls’ Rights

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on African leaders to prioritize education for pregnant girls and married adolescents at the Third African Girls’ Summit in Niamey, Niger, from November 16-18, 2021. The rights organisation stated in a press release that Governments attending the summit should commit to stronger human rights protections for girls’ education.

According to HRW, despite many governments in Africa having protective laws and policies, hundreds of thousands of girls and young women in Africa are denied an education because they are pregnant, married, or mothers.

Gabon and Côte d’Ivoire are among the countries that guarantee girls the right to continue school during pregnancy and after giving birth. However, governments such as Tanzania have policies that ban or expel pregnant girls or adolescent mothers from school. Even where laws and policies exist on girls’ education, protections to continue education, as well as implementation and adherence, vary.

Senior Women’s Rights Researcher and Nairobi office head at Human Rights Watch, Agnes Odhiambo stated that the Third African Girls’ Summit points to the growing commitment by African leaders to end discrimination against girls, but governments need to take further actions to ensure that all girls can enjoy their childhood and contribute to their society’s development.

“African governments should ensure access to education for all girls by providing clear school and community-based plans to support those who are pregnant or mothers to return to school and succeed academically,” she stated.

The summit platform brings together stakeholders from across the region and beyond to galvanize support to end harmful practices against girls in Africa. Participants include the African Union and its human rights entities, national governments and political leaders, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations, girls and young people, and traditional leaders.

While there is legal and policy recognition of all girls’ and women’s right to education in many African countries, there remains a large gap in enabling them to get to school and to stay until graduation. Many girls, for instance, lack financial and psychosocial, or mental health, support to continue with education during pregnancy or after they have given birth.

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