Singer Angélique Kidjo and eight of Benin's other music artists are urging parents to not marry off their young daughters in a new music video created by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
“A little girl is still a child. She cannot be a mother or a bride. Let her grow up to live a fulfilling life. Say NO to child marriage,” sings Ms. Kidjo, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, along with UNICEF national Goodwill Ambassador Zeynab Abib, and a number of other stars.
In Benin, one in ten girls is married under the age of 15 and three out of ten girls are married before they are 18 years old, according to UN figures. These girls are among the 250 million around the world forced into marriage before their eighteenth birthdays.
“Child marriage is a negation of children's right to grow up free. Every child has the right to a childhood. I call on parents not to marry off their young daughters as they are our wealth and the future of our continent,” said Angélique Kidjo who co-created the song with Zeynab Abib.
The artists sing in a variety of languages, including Fon, Mina, Mahi, Sahouè, Yoruba, Goun, Bariba and French in order for the message to reach people throughout the country and in neighbouring countries.
“The impact on these girls is terrible. Once married, they no longer attend school, they are raped, they fall pregnant, which puts their health and that of their baby in danger,” said Ms. Abib, who mobilised Benin's greatest artists around this cause.
“We artists are saying NO to all these injustices! Girls are not the property of anyone; they have the right to choose their own destinies.”
The song is part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage, launched by the Government of Benin on 16 June, which is the International Day of the African Child.
Other artists signing include Danialou Sagbohan, Kalamoulaï, Don Métok, Sessimè, Dibi Dobo, Norberka and Olga Vigouroux.
“We need all the strength and weapons we can muster to fight the scourge of child marriage. Art, especially music, is a powerful weapon,” said Claudes Kamenga, UNICEF Representative in Benin.