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Marking Human Rights Day with focus on engaging young men to end child marriage

10 December 2015

International Human Rights Day 2015: ‘Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.’

The Commonwealth Secretariat marked International Human Rights Day today with a focus group discussion on engaging young men and boys in the fight against child marriage – a fundamental human rights violation still widely practised in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Children’s Choir sang the Commonwealth Anthem to open the event and Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma delivered his Human Rights Day Statement.

“Although the challenges to ensuring human rights are daunting, they are not insurmountable if the spirit is willing, which we must summon as an indivisible human community. The responsibility to uphold human rights is ours collectively. We are determined in confronting them, and will remain resolute in our determination to ensure a decent and dignified life for each and every individual in the Commonwealth,” declared Mr Sharma.  

The Secretary-General noted that since 2011 each Commonwealth heads of government statement has contained a specific mandate to prevent and eliminate child marriage, including the most recent issued in Malta at the end of November. This demonstrates the level of commitment in the Commonwealth to end this practice.

Dr Wanjala Wafula, Founder and Executive Director of Coexist Initiative Kenya led the focus group discussion with a panel of eight young men from across the Commonwealth. The panel shared experiences and explored some of the deeply ingrained attitudes of patriarchy, gender inequality and negative masculinity in the context of child, early and forced marriage.

Delegate at #HumanRightsDay panel discussion: #childmarriage is a direct violation of #humanrights and should be treated as such

— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) December 10, 2015

Describing some of the many initiatives undertaken by the Secretariat, Karen McKenzie, Head of Human Rights, underscored the importance of involving young men and boys in prevention and elimination strategies.

“Where masculinity is equated with dominance, ownership and control over others, women and girls are prevented from realizing their rights. By engaging with men and boys the reach of arguments against child marriage are amplified. Engagement offers the opportunity to question traditional practices,” she noted.

Ms McKenzie added: “The Commonwealth is committed to helping improve gender equality and to mobilising traditional leaders and communities to end child marriage via the sharing of innovations and good practices in regard to the mobilisation of men and boys, especially in rural communities.”

#HumanRightsDay #endchildmarriage pic.twitter.com/t9E2swXuFH

— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) December 10, 2015

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Josephine Ojiambo delivered the closing remarks. Noting the theme 'Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always', she pointed to the Commonwealth initiative Commonwealth Champions Against Child Marriage as a means to empower survivors and mobilise communities.

Mobilising Traditional Chiefs to End Child Marriage in Malawi Version 2 from Commonwealth Secretariat on Vimeo.

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Join the conversation online: @commonwealthsec #HumanRightsDay #endchildmarriage

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