Harper calls on la Francophonie to put an end to forced marriages

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has urged countries in la Francophonie to help put an end to child marriages and forced unions. Harper told the opening ceremony of the summit of French-speaking nations in Senegal that 100 million females were forced into marriage between 2004 and 2014 before reaching adulthood. The main theme at the 15th summit of French-speaking nations is women and youth, and Harper, who announced Friday that Canada would contribute $500 million to a program aimed at providing vaccines for impoverished children around the world, noted Saturday that delegates at the summit will vote on a Canadian resolution on the health of mothers, newborns and children.

When girls cannot achieve their full potential, everyone suffers: the girls, their children, their communities and their countries. … I firmly believe that it is possible to put an end to preventable maternal and child deaths within a generation.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Harper added that a Canadian-led initiative from the G-8 summit in 2010 has reduced maternal mortality and improved the health of mothers and children in the poorest countries in the world. He also noted that in 2013, more than six million children died before their fifth birthday and that “between 2010 and 2013 — in just three years — two million deaths were prevented because children had access to basic vaccines. The summit ends Sunday, the day a new secretary general of la Francophonie will be elected to succeed the outgoing Abdou Diouf. Former governor general Michaelle Jean is one of five candidates in the race.