Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Burkina Faso: U.N. Program to Fight Child Marriage

(Apr. 6, 2009) Girls must be over the age of 16 to marry legally in Burkina Faso, with an exception that may be granted by a court when there are serious grounds to permit marriage a year earlier (Part II, Title II, art. 238, CODE DES PERSONNES ET DE LA FAMILLE (Nov. 16, 1989) (Ouagadougou, 1989)). However, the practice of marrying much younger children persists in the West African nation. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has spent the equivalent of US$7 million in the last seven years in efforts to end the practice, but particularly in the Sahel region in the northern part of the country, child marriage is still practiced. UNFPA, working with the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the National Population Advisory Council of Burkina Faso, has launched a new, two-year program of peer education, in which young married girls will counsel other girls. There will also be job training and health services that are designed to improve the overall security of both married and unmarried girls. The areas of the country with high rates of child marriage also experience increased school drop-out rates, together with high levels of poverty, maternal and infant mortality, and unemployment. (Burkina Faso: Child Brides Fight Child Marriage, ALLAFRICA.COM, Mar. 17, 2009, available at

One aspect of the new program is designed to encourage families to keep their girls in school through scholarships for books, supplies, fees, and bicycles to use as transportation from remote areas. Keeping children in school is one way to protect them from abuse. Adama Sawadogo, an elementary school director in the northern village of Gankouna explained, “[i]f girls leave schools as early as at this age, how do we expect them to know their rights and duties?” (Id.)

The campaign will cost about US$1.6 million. Speaking for UNFPA, Siaka Traoré stated “[w]e do not mean to eradicate the phenomenon in two years, but we will make sure we have set up [a core group of advocates] to better fight early marriage because the practice is well-rooted in culture.” He went on to say that the process will take time because, in his view, behavior cannot be changed by decree. In addition to the peer educators, the program will recruit 120 community leaders to denounce child marriage. (Id.; see related article on Mali, a nation bordering Burkina Faso, Proposal to Raise Marriage Age May Help Counter Trafficking inGirls, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Jan. 28, 2009, available at//