Child Marriage in the Central African Republic

Child marriage rates in the Central African Republic are the second-highest globally. According to Girls Not Brides, among girls in the Central African Republic, 61% marry before their 18th birthday and 26% marry before they turn 15 years of age. As for young men or boys, 28% marry before the age of 18. There are several factors that contribute to this problem, and below is a look into some of them.

Factors Contributing to Child Marriage in the Central African Republic

  1. Education Gaps, Poverty and Cultural Standards: Child Marriage In the Central African Republic is prevalent primarily because of poverty, social norms prioritizing male education over female education and a general lack of education. In a country where most people live in poverty and lack access to education, families often see marriage as a way to provide their daughters with economic opportunities and ensure their safety. According to Monique Nali, the former director for gender promotion at the Ministry of social affairs, girls in the Central African Republic go into marriage before adulthood due to social norms that prioritize early marriage for girls. In this society, a common belief is that marriage and motherhood are the only roles for women. Unfortunately, such beliefs contribute to the perpetuation of female oppression.
  2. Polygamy: In a polygamous relationship, the law sanctions the practice as long as the spouses acknowledge and agree to the arrangement before marriage. In many cultures, having multiple wives and children is considered a symbol of wealth and pride and it can also increase the labor force. Additionally, polygamy can provide continuity for family lines.
  3. Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) is a significant contributing factor to the prevalence of child marriage in the Central African Republic. According to statistics from Orchid Project and 28 Too Many (2022), 17.3% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 underwent FGM/C from 2018 to 2019. In this region, FGM/C is a core part of the culture and girls undergo the painful procedure as a rite of passage. Unfortunately, girls who have undergone FGM/C are more likely to become victims of child marriage.

Measures To Prevent Child Marriage

In the Central African Republic, children under the age of 18 have no legal permission to marry due to the 1992 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The government is responsible for ensuring that every person has the right to freely consent to marriage. The Central African Republic has also implemented additional laws to prevent early and forced marriages.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international agreement that prohibits discrimination against women, was signed in 1991 and requires all states to ensure free and full consent to marriage. This convention has established a legal framework for the protection of children’s rights in the Central African Republic, particularly in regard to marriage. Furthermore, CEDAW has aided in eradicating all types of discrimination against women in the country.

While the Central African Republic has committed to achieving Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for eliminating child marriage, forced marriage and female genital mutilation by 2030, High-level political forums are yet to provide updates on progress.


The Central African Republic’s ability to enforce laws protecting children appears to be weak due to a lack of resources, inadequate funding for initiatives and unstable economic conditions, leaving women and girls vulnerable to violence. Addressing gender inequality and harmful practices, such as child marriage, can be challenging in cultures where such practices are traditional.

It is much easier for girls who are married as children to become victims of physical and sexual violence from their partners because their lack of rights and power over their lives makes them more vulnerable to such violence. This vulnerability may lead to long-term psychological and physical effects. Hence, public awareness campaigns and education could play a major role in creating real and lasting change in the fight against child marriage in the Central African Republic.

– Simran Raghav
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a sub-Saharan nation comprising a population of approximately 5.5 million. Its capital is Bangui. Similar to many regions of Africa, the country has poor health care with limited access to clean water and sanitary spaces. Health care in the Central African Republic is in an extremely poor state with the country having a life expectancy of just 55 in 2020. Here are six facts about health and health care in the Central African Republic. 

1. Diseases

Common diseases in Africa such as malaria, yellow fever and diarrheal-related diseases exist in CAR. Tropical diseases spread easily through the country with insufficient medical resources. The National Library of Medicine shows that malaria accounts for 40% of all illnesses in the country.

Yellow fever is also prominent in the country, as with much of north and central Africa. Although some action has occurred in the roll-outs of vaccines, with a 2021 UNICEF statistic illustrating that 41% of the population is vaccinated, the country is still far from reaching the 80% threshold which indicates a country’s immunity.

Diarrheal-related illnesses are similarly frequent, particularly in children. Although organizations such as WaterAid have taken action in the construction of clean water pumps, water insecurity provides a constant risk for the country’s majority. A statistic from the National Library of Medicine shows an average of seven episodes per child per year.

2. Children’s Health Care

Life is especially tough for children living in the Central African Republic. Conflict within the region has left many children homeless and without an education. A 2021 UNICEF statistic illustrates that 370,000 children are internally displaced across the country as a result of widespread violence. Civil unrest in the country has forced children to join armed groups or flee their homes. To aid children’s well-being, UNICEF is introducing community-based interventions to support children’s mental health.

3. Malnutrition

UNICEF also helps children formerly a part of armed groups through programs that reunite them with their families. Malnutrition is also very common among children due to a low intake of healthy food. A statistic from UNICEF predicts that a minimum of 24,000 children under the age of 5 will suffer from acute malnutrition. The Central African Republic has one of the least funded childcare health care programs in the world and continues to struggle with this issue.

4. Access to Sanitation and Clean Water

Similarly to much of Africa, access to clean water remains a serious problem in the present day. Despite charitable efforts to introduce water pumps and sanitary spaces, much of the country, especially rural communities, go without the human right of access to clean water.

A statistic from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows that only 37% of Central Africans have access to clean water. As a result, the majority of its population have exposure to dirty and germ-infected water for their everyday needs including drinking, washing and cooking. As a result of this frequent intake of dirty water, the country suffers from a high rate of water-borne diseases such as typhoid disease and diarrhea.

5. COVID-19

COVID-19 had severe impacts on underdeveloped countries. With a lack of medical knowledge, the virus spread rapidly across CAR with 15,367 cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As a result of the lockdown and school closures, COVID-19 also increased the frequency of gender-based and child abuse. This has resulted in many people suffering mental health issues and requiring psychosocial help.

6. Hospitals

A key reason for the country’s failing health care system is the extreme lack of hospitals and medical facilities. There is one major hospital located in the capital Bangui and a few more around the country. However, these hospitals are low-staffed and poorly equipped to deal with the high number of patients requiring medical attention. Health care in the Central African Republic lacks so much funding that humanitarian organizations provide 70% of health services within the country. 


Although the current health care system is failing, with help from charities, hope exists for significantly better health care in the Central African Republic. UNICEF has put projects in place for 2023 to improve the quality of health in the country through a humanitarian approach. UNICEF’s programs prioritize children’s protection and set out to provide 140,000 with psychosocial care. In regard to combatting malnutrition, UNICEF plans to provide 60,000 children with medical treatment for this preventable condition.

In response to the low accessibility of drinking water, Concern Worldwide is conducting a project which plans to construct five water well boreholes in Mobaye town to provide people with safe and germ-free drinking water. Combined with the restoration of five damaged water wells, this project will increase the number of people who have access to clean water in Mobaye town by 50%.

Despite the challenges that the health care system is facing in CAR, several organizations are making a difference regarding its population’s health. Through their continued work, hopefully, health and health care will continue to improve in the Central African Republic.

Freddie Trevanion
Photo: Flickr

Diseases Impacting the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is one of the poorest nations in Africa, with a GDP of just $2,516.50 in 2021. The nation has a history of engulfment in humanitarian crises and political instability. The ongoing civil war, which began in 2012, detrimentally affected the health care system and increased the prevalence of transmittable diseases impacting the Central African Republic. About 33% of its health facilities are partially damaged and just 22% are operational, according to assessments from 2021. However, organizations are working to strengthen health systems and provide critical health care to the country’s people, particularly in rural areas.


Malaria is a life-threatening, tropical disease transmitted to humans via female mosquitoes. It is one of many endemic diseases impacting the Central African Republic, infecting a vast number of people annually. In 2020, malaria impacted 336 people per 1,000.

The civil war between Christian militias and Muslim rebels contributed to the rapid increase in malaria cases and deaths. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) states that malaria cases in Bossangoa increased by more than threefold to 6,507 in May 2014, with children under 5 accounting for close to 66% of infections.

The war displaced thousands of civilians as militias burned and looted villages, leaving villagers without shelter and protection from mosquito-borne infections. A 2012 report by the MSF said approximately 12,000 displaced individuals resided nearby MSF health care projects in Kabo and Batangafo. The CAR government had established an initiative to provide free malaria treatment to children under 5 but it lacked the capacity and resources to properly function.

The MSF is tackling diseases impacting the Central African Republic, like malaria. In 2020, it launched a “mass drug administration” to prevent malaria infections. The organization broadcasted its campaign via local radios and then visited households to distribute anti-malaria treatment to avoid crowded areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. MSF and other international medical humanitarian organizations had provided treatment to 39,631 people in Batangafo.


HIV is one of the most widespread diseases impacting the Central African Republic. In 2021, approximately 83,000 adults and children lived with HIV, UNAIDS says. The disease is controlled using antiretroviral therapy (ART), which involves taking a combination of HIV medicines to stop the virus from replicating.

Marie Charlotte Bantah Sana, the head of the program against communicable diseases at the CAR’s Health and Population Ministry, told MSF in 2020 that 30% of patients who test positive for HIV do not come back to undergo treatment due to financial constraints.

Since 2019, MSF has provided “free medical care and psychological support for patients” with advanced HIV and tuberculosis problems. MSF prioritized advanced care in Bangui, CAR’s capital, where the HIV incidence is double the national average. Outside of Bangui, MSF is prioritizing the treatment of individuals with advanced stages of HIV in Paoua, Carnot, Kabo and Batangafo.

MSF also established community antiretroviral (ARV) groups in several areas, which involve designated community members supplying HIV patients with ARV drug refills. This decreased transport expenditure and allowed people to avoid hospitals where stigma and discrimination are common. By the close of 2020, MSF had established 276 community ARV groups to represent 2,300 HIV-infected individuals.

HIV/AIDS incidence rates in the Central African Republic have declined as more patients received antiretroviral therapy. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy rose from fewer than 25,000 to more than 47,000.


Tuberculosis is a highly infectious airborne bacterial disease that affects the lungs and is easily transmitted in crowded areas. It is one of many common diseases impacting the Central African Republic. In 2000, the Central African Republic reported 540 tuberculosis cases per 100,000 individuals. This value has remained unchanged from 2000 to 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the CAR’s ability to detect tuberculosis as the country suffered shortages of skilled staff in labs. Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) provided financial and technical support to strengthen the country’s laboratory network.

The WHO helped with the purchase of 11 out of the total 23 GeneXpert machines the Central African Republic received between 2020 and 2021. GeneXpert machines are utilized for instant diagnostic testing and can detect the presence of tuberculosis bacteria in less than two hours. The WHO trained staff on how to install, utilize and maintain the machines. The addition of GeneXpert machines helped laboratories conduct 4,690 tuberculosis tests in 2021 compared to 1,345 tests before the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the efforts of organizations such as MSF and the WHO, the prevalence of diseases impacting the Central African Republic is reducing.

– Dami Kalejaiye
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality in the Central African Republic
Child mortality in the Central African Republic (CAR) is a significant issue. According to UNICEF, in 2021, the CAR had one of the worst child mortality rates in the entire world, with 100 deaths per 1,000 live births, which equates to about one in 10 children dying before their fifth birthday. This issue of child mortality in the CAR is a multifaceted issue that has deeply rooted itself in the country.

Causes of Child Mortality in the Central African Republic

Researchers conducted a study in 2020 with the help of the Ministry of Health and Population and the Central African Institute for Statistics and Economic and Social Studies, which sheds light on the rampant child mortality in the CAR. The researchers conducted the study in one prefecture of the CAR called Ouaka, in which the researchers interviewed a sample size of 4,000 residents.

According to the study, 64% of the deaths of children under 5 resulted from three treatable diseases —  malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. Usually, diseases like diarrhea are simple to treat, however, in the CAR, inadequate access to health care presents barriers.

Doctors Without Borders discusses in an article why children in the CAR risk mortality even though these diseases are treatable. Firstly, parents attempt traditional medicine before taking their children to skilled health professionals, and by the time the parents seek out professional care, the child is in a severe state of health.

Additionally, urgent medical attendance is delayed by the fact that the distance to get to a hospital or health care center is long for those in rural locations. Many parents do not vaccinate their kids, which also impacts child mortality in the CAR. Many children have not received critical childhood immunizations, Doctors Without Borders says.

According to a 2012 article by Doctors Without Borders, 13% of under 5 child deaths in the CAR occurred while traveling to a hospital and 60% of child deaths occurred at home.

Doctors Without Borders Takes Action

Doctors Without Borders has worked in the CAR since 1997. From 2015 onward, Doctors Without Borders carried out a vaccination campaign to immunize more than 213,000 children in the CAR against nine common illnesses. During this campaign, the organization administered more than 1 million vaccines to children under 5. The Doctors Without Borders team also introduced preventative measures, such as, “distributing vitamin A, bed nets, anti-parasite treatment and screening for malnutrition,” its website says. Since then, the organization has launched many other immunization initiatives in the country.

For instance, in January 2020, the Ministry of Health in the CAR warned of a countrywide measles epidemic. In response, Doctors Without Borders held a large-scale measles vaccination initiative with the goal of immunizing more than 340,000 children in seven health zones in the CAR.

Overall the prevalence of child mortality in the CAR is concerning, however, it has seen an impressive decrease in the rate of death with the help of organizations like Doctors Without Borders. In 2000, under-5 child mortality rates in the CAR stood at 166 deaths. In 2012, more than 10 years later, under-5 child mortality in the CAR stood at 123 deaths but reduced to 100 in 2021.

Due to the ongoing work of organizations, there is hope for child mortality in the Central African Republic to continue decreasing in the coming years.

– David Keenan
Photo: Flickr

Charities in the Central African RepublicPoverty in the Central African Republic is an ongoing problem showing few signs of improvement. Despite being abundant in natural resources, the nation is one of the poorest and most economically fragile countries in the world. As of 2022, approximately 71% of the population is living below the international poverty line, surviving on less than $2.15 a day. Still, several charities are working to address poverty in the CAR.

5 Charities in the Central African Republic

  1. Concern – Operating in the CAR since March 2014, Concern aims to build community resilience by taking integrated approaches to alleviate the suffering of conflict-affected communities. By focusing on the drivers of poverty such as health and nutrition, sanitation, food security and gender equality, Concern has seen major success in its integrated programs. In 2021, the organization reached 152,000 people with its initiatives. In 2022, Concern focused its efforts on alleviating violence against women and improving literacy rates.
  2. War Child – War Child is a charity that has been operating in the Central African Republic since 2014. Its most notable work has been with conflict-affected children and their families, supporting the reintegration of 15,500 children from the armed forces back into their communities. The organization’s focus on improving the lives of children most affected by conflict has extended to programs that provide child-friendly spaces, the promotion of peace-building through child-led advocacy and working with schools to build child protection committees.
  3. Islamic Relief – Islamic Relief came to the Central African Republic in 2014 with the goal of providing emergency aid and psychosocial care. The organization carries out its mission by developing child-friendly spaces in the nation’s capital for roughly 8,000 children in partnership with War Child and Enfants Sans Frontiers (ESF). Islamic Relief’s interfaith project has supported community cohesion for more than 4,000 people. In addition, faith leaders work together to secure the bright future of their communities by rebuilding the livelihoods of those lost to violence.
  4. World Food Programme (WFP) – The WFP helps communities meet their basic nutritional needs by distributing food or cash while working alongside schools to improve children’s nutrition and school attendance in areas facing food insecurity. The WFP also works to reintegrate people back into their communities.
  5. International Rescue Committee (IRC) – The IRC has been operating in the Central African Republic since 2006 and focuses on providing medical care, water and sanitation services. Moreover, the organization is also focused on protecting the most vulnerable people in society. There are multiple facets to IRC’s recovery plan in the Central African Republic. Most importantly they focus on the safety and well-being of high-risk communities while providing sanitation assistance and education initiatives.

Overall, the work of these five organizations has been integral in the elevation of underprivileged communities plagued by food and health crises, civil war and poor literacy rates.

– Namra Tahir
Photo: Flickr

Girls Not Brides Girls Not Brides is an international nonprofit that works to end child marriage around the world. The organization is an initiative founded in 2011 by The Elders, a group of senior statesmen and human rights advocates brought together in 2007 by Nelson Mandela. Girls Not Brides has been working for over a decade to bring the issue of child marriage to the forefront of the government’s attention.

What is Child Marriage?

The term ‘child marriage’ refers to any formal or informal union between a child under the age of 18, and an adult or another child. According to the Girls Not Brides Atlas, the three countries with the highest rates of child marriage as of 2020 are Niger, Central African Republic and Chad. Currently, one in five girls worldwide are married before they are 18, which is a decrease from 10 years ago when one in four girls were victims of the practice. Despite this reduction, the practice still remains very prevalent in certain places. Child marriage can be the result of grave gender inequality, as the frequency of the tradition amongst boys is one sixth of that amongst girls.

Child marriage is also largely driven by poverty, as girls can pose as financial burdens to their families and are married to help relieve fiscal pressure. Girls believe that marriage is the key to securing their futures and sometimes drop out of school before they receive secondary education and begin their lives as wives. In some communities, marriage at a younger age can mean a lower expense. It is customary in different cultures for the girl’s family to ask for money in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Younger brides tend to go for higher rates, which serves as an incentive for impoverished families to sell their daughters as soon as they can.

The Dangers of Child Marriage

The practice of child marriage has devastating effects on the girls who fall victim. Girls married under the age of 15 are 50% more likely to suffer from domestic violence than those married at a later age. Child marriage can result in girls having sex before they are emotionally and physically ready and is a key driver of adolescent pregnancy, which carries its own health risks. When a girl enters a marriage, she is usually expected to drop out of school and tend to the home and eventually, the children.

If and when girls are ready to return to school, they are faced with barriers such as household responsibilities and a lack of educational and social preparation. In fact, school closures due to the pandemic have exposed 10 million more girls to child marriage as isolation and rising financial instability have driven families to turn to child marriage in order to cope with the economic challenges that came with COVID-19.

How Girls Not Brides is Working to End Child Marriage

Girls Not Brides is working to end child marriage in a multitude of ways. Not only does it work to prevent child marriage, but it also amplifies the voices of current and potential victims. Girls Not Brides strives to bring awareness to the problem by encouraging informed discussions about the topic on local, national, and international levels. As of 2020, Girls Not Brides is made up of more than 1,500 members from 104 countries around the world and has advocated across multiple platforms and top-tier media outlets.

Girls Not Brides offers in-person and online workshops in order to enlighten people on child marriage and educate them in ways they can help. It also mobilizes various political and financial supporters to help further its cause.

A Look Ahead

The nonprofit comprises of 1,400 civil society organizations around the world and works with a range of stakeholders and partners to ensure that its message is being heard. Girls Not Brides is working to end child marriage so that girls everywhere can grow up to reach their full potential, and is bringing light to an issue that is often overlooked but extremely important.

Ava Lombardi 
Photo: Flickr

Gender Inequality and HIV
Gender Inequality and HIV is a significant issue in the Central African Republic (CAR). In fact, it is still the primary cause of death in the nation, with nearly 5,000 people dying from HIV/AIDS in 2020. More than 50% of the nearly 110,000 people living with HIV in CAR are not receiving treatment for it. Furthermore, gender inequality within the CAR HIV/AIDS response is ever-present. However, CAR, with the support of organizations like Doctors Without Borders and UNAIDS, is working to make health services for HIV/AIDS more accessible and create a setting where women can get the help that they need, tackling both gender inequality and HIV.

Gender Inequality and HIV in the Central African Republic

Statistics from the year 2020 indicate that 88,000 adults and children are living with HIV in CAR. Of the total number of people living with HIV in CAR, women aged 15 and older account for approximately 51,000 cases. Meanwhile, 1,200 women aged 15 and older have died from HIV.

The aforementioned statistics align with the social and economic conditions present in CAR. MICS-6 survey data from 2021 indicates that 23.6% of females between 15 and 49 years of age entered into a marriage or union before reaching the age of 15. On top of this, CAR gender-based violence information management system records also reveal 72 instances of rape and 340 instances of gender-based violence during the month of January 2021.

Female genital mutilation is also a common practice in the region, with 21% of CAR women undergoing this traditional yet harmful procedure. Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Central African Republic Denise Brown attributes this violence against women to a combination of “protracted insecurity, violence and humanitarian crises compounded with toxic masculinities and negative social norms.”

The CAR Government Takes Action

The CAR government has conducted an assessment of gender dimensions and HIV response. The results of the assessment reveal that the female members of the population do not receive the full benefit of HIV program advances. The assessment also shows that HIV was prevalent among 15% of female sex workers. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of pregnant mothers obtain “access to prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission services.”

Acting on these figures, the Central African Republic government has put together an intervention plan for 2021-2023 to assist marginalized women. The plan includes “biomedical and behavioral interventions to promote gender-transformative education and sensitization” to alleviate “barriers to access to HIV services by women, girls and key populations.” In addition, various strategies of care will “promote access to health, social and psychosocial services for women,” with a focus on reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Furthermore, monitoring will allow for accountability regarding gender equality and HIV progress.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Assists

The CAR government is not alone in its efforts. Other organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, have also stepped up efforts to help improve access to HIV services in the CAR region. Beginning in 2019 in the capital city of Bangui, this help comes in the form of MSF teams “providing free medical care and psychological support for patients” infected with advanced HIV and tuberculosis complications. The treatment serves as specialized care in an area where HIV prevalence is double the national average. Furthermore, MSF has set up community anti-retroviral (ARV) groups in various areas where designated community representatives can supply ARV drug refills. This endeavor eliminates the burden of transport expenditure on already impoverished people and “time spent in medical consultations.”

Besides providing care, MSF also helps patients care for themselves through self-management. Peer support receives encouragement. This has led to advocacy among community members. The close of 2020 has seen the establishment of “276 community ARV groups in CAR, representing some 2,300 patients.” With the efforts of the government and organizations such as MSF, CAR can make progress in both the realms of gender inequality and HIV.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in the Central African Republic
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines female genital mutilation (FGM) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” FGM has no health benefits, and in fact, it can lead to extreme health complications. This includes severe bleeding, problems urinating, cysts and infections as well as complications in childbirth and the added risk of newborn deaths. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced mutilation in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. About three million girls per year are at risk of undergoing FGM before their 15th birthday without interventions to combat the prevalence of FGM. Female genital mutilation is a common practice in the Central African Republic.

The Prevalence of FGM in the Central African Republic

FGM is widespread in the Central African Republic. The average portion of women undergoing FGM in the Central African Republic is 24% but can range from 3%-53% depending on the province, according to UNICEF. Of those cut, 52% of girls underwent the procedure between the ages of 10 and 14.

The Orchid Project’s Work to End FGM

The Orchid Project is an NGO that focuses on ending FGM throughout the world. It does this by “catalyzing the global movement to end female genital cutting,” particularly by advocating among global leaders and governments to make sure that the elimination of FGM is a priority. The Orchid Project has a goal of eliminating all FGM by 2030. The project spreads awareness of the dangers of FGM through its website.

The Murua Girl Child Education Program

The Murua Girl Child Education Program is an organization that raises awareness of child rights and promotes children’s protection from harmful practices like FGM. Seleyian Partoip, the program’s founder and director, gave a speech at the International Conference on Population Development in Nairobi, Kenya. She says, “Every time I speak about FGC [female genital cutting], I speak as a survivor of the practice… My daughter will never speak as a survivor.” The program’s vision is to preserve, promote and protect cultural practices while stopping harmful traditions. It does this by reaching out to schools and communities and educating them on the dangers of harmful practices like FGM, while also teaching people about proper hygiene, their bodies and their rights. The program is based in Kenya but also reaches out to youth in other African countries.

28 Too Many’s Work to End FGM

28 Too Many is an organization that spreads awareness of female genital mutilation in the Central African Republic and other African countries. “The more we talk the better . . . [b]ut to fully eradicate FGM we need to have the authorities on our side enforcing the law,” said Marguerite Ramadan, president of the Central African Republic Committee of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices. 

Female genital mutilation is prevalent in the Central African Republic, but, the Orchid Project, the Murua Girl Child Education Program and others are working to end it. With the right education, outreach and awareness, communities will abandon the practice of female genital mutilation. Thanks to donations, these organizations can continue working toward their goal of eliminating the practice of female genital mutilation by 2030.

Neve Walker
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in the Central African Republic
The year 2020 was turbulent for the entire world. From high stake elections to a global pandemic, much change has occurred in a short amount of time. Yet, while many worry about COVID-19 and economic downfall, a shadow pandemic is raging across sub-Saharan Africa. Recent lockdowns and socioeconomic turmoil have resulted in a sharp uptick in sexual violence and femicide across several African states. Countries such as Liberia and Nigeria saw a 50% increase in rape and killings. Experts attributed a large number of said cases to mandatory curfews. However, limited women’s rights in the Central African Republic (CAR) is also a cause.

The Situation

The Central African Republic revealed a 27% increase in rape and a 69% increase in cases with violence dealt against women and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women’s rights and safety have always been a longstanding issue for the Central African Republic. Besides having the rank of one of the least healthy and developed nations, the CAR ranks second highest for gender inequality globally. According to the U.N. Development Programme, COVID-19 presents a particular issue because “school and business closures, have meanwhile increased the domestic burdens borne by women and girls and sharply reduced their earnings, increasingly the existing vulnerabilities, confining them to homes they often share with their abusers and limiting access to support and health services.”

Since 2017, the CAR has reached out to donors and international organizations such as the U.N. and The International Development Association (IDA) to make longstanding changes. In that period, one can see progress in the fight for women’s rights in the Central African Republic.

Overview of Progress

While the CAR still struggles with women’s rights, generally, nonprofit organizations and international actors have taken action to help change the tide. Take, for instance, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, which, since 2008, has provided local women’s activist information regarding the Rome Statute for Human Rights, resources to protect vulnerable women better and help in communicating with other women’s rights organizations. The organization has also promoted the training of lawyers and victims’ trust funds.

Another example of progress toward attaining better women’s rights in the CAR is the partnership with the Human Rights Council to host a series of hearings. These hearings focused on recent abuses and acts of extreme violence, especially those targeting women. The attendees were a series of international organizations such as U.N. Women and representatives from over 15 countries.

With the upcoming electoral season, the CAR has an even greater chance of radically transforming women’s rights in the country. The Secretary-General of the U.N., António Guterres, emphasized how, “All segments of the population of the Central African Republic, in particular women, young people, internally displaced persons and refugees, must be at the center of efforts to consolidate democracy and, consequently, of this electoral process.” Currently, the U.N. manages dialogue channels for opposing parties and interest groups to ensure the election is fair and peaceful. In essence, with the prospect of a new leader and parties coming to power, this could be the perfect opportunity to reform women’s rights.

Persisting Challenges

Although the U.N. and the CAR recently signed an agreement promising to tackle sexual violence by armed groups, the country still has a long way to go. For instance, rape victims in the CAR have little to no legal avenues to seek out reparations or any form of justice. Furthermore, medical aid for assault victims and women’s care, in general, is mostly underfunded and incredibly difficult to access.

Moreover, as the military conflict continues to destabilize the country, more and more women and young girls become victims of sex slavery and weaponized rape. Women in rural villages are primarily targeted, as rape is a psychological tactic in violent conflict. Many experts have argued that a specialized court dealing with said sexual crimes against women would be extremely effective at delivering justice.

Future Policy Recommendations

Aside from creating a network of specialized courts dealing with women’s rights and sexual violence, the CAR can still implement many policies and initiatives to promote women’s rights better. For instance, whistleblowing procedures should be put in place to protect aid workers who report sexual assault cases and violence amongst vulnerable populations. SOFEPADI, a Congolese NGO, has argued that development agencies need to better coordinate with each other to assist women caught in conflict and appoint women to positions of power within their organizations.

By reforming the way aid workers conduct with women in the CAR and funding more women lead organizations, the CAR and international actors can significantly improve the fight for women’s rights. However, another reform that the Central African Republic should consider is creating more economic development zones for marginalized peoples, such as women.

At a recent U.N. general assembly meeting, several African leaders advocated creating fiscal spaces to invest in social needs, especially in regard to women. Reforms such as this can significantly improve women’s livelihood, educate young girls and grant women in the CAR significant socio-economic autonomy. The CAR may not rank the best in women’s rights, but as time passes and international actors continue their efforts, hope exists for change.

– Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Central African RepublicOne year after repatriation efforts began, refugees from the Central African Republic are returning home. Although repatriation operations began in November 2019, the return of refugees from the Central African Republic was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Enhanced health and safety precautions made their return possible. The United Nations Refugee Agency, a U.N. agency responsible for protecting refugees, organized the implementation of health and safety precautions. Measures included the use of masks and temperature screening. Handwashing stations were also installed to prevent the spread of disease.

Central African Republic Refugees

Repatriation efforts began after security conditions in the Central African Republic improved. Stability in the country has developed at a slow pace. Less violence in regions of the Central African Republic known for volatile shifts prompted the voluntary return of refugees.

Beginning in 2012, violent confrontations between armed factions throughout the Central African Republic forced more than 500,000 people to flee. Thousands more went into hiding, often in the wilderness, where access to food and clean water is scarce. A staggering rate of poverty among citizens of the Central African Republic reflects years of political instability.

Poverty in the Central African Republic

Both domestically and abroad, refugees from the Central African Republic experience rates of extreme poverty and hunger. The Central African Republic was one of the last two countries on the 2018 Human Development Index ranking. Combined with the political instability of the nation, the Central African Republic’s low development score contributes to the nation’s high rate of poverty.

With a population of a little less than five million people, almost 80% of the country’s people live in poverty. While political instability is a major factor that contributes to the high rate of poverty in the country, meager production rates, insufficient markets and pronounced gender inequality also contribute to the high rate of poverty. Additionally, it is estimated that nearly half of the population of the country experiences food insecurity.

Alarmingly, almost 90% of food insecure individuals in the country are classed as severely food insecure, which is nearly two million people. This has particularly devastating effects for children aged between 6 months and 5 years old. More than one-third of all children within that age range are stunted due to lack of appropriate dietary nutrition.

The World Food Programme Alliance

In partnership with the government of the Central African Republic and other humanitarian organizations, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided emergency food and nutritional assistance to nearly 100,000 people, in 2018. This assistance was delivered to individuals who were affected by the violence that resulted from the coup in 2013, the civil violence that was unleashed by competing factions after the coup and the violence that continued through 2017, as hostility between armed groups was reignited. This method of the WFP’s humanitarian aid involves the distribution of food packages and the implementation of nutrition activities for children and pregnant mothers.

Time will tell whether refugees are returning to a country that will eventually provide for them. Through various initiatives, including Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress, the WFP hopes to turn civic, humanitarian functions over to the country’s government.

Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress

Both the Food Assistance for Assets and Purchase for Progress initiatives were designed by the United Nations to help partner nations achieve objectives set by the ‘Zero Hunger’ Sustainable Development Goal. Food Assistance for Assets “addresses immediate food needs through cash, voucher or food transfers.” Its response to immediate needs is paired with a long-term approach. Food Assistance for Assets “promotes the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience.”

Purchase for Progress works in tandem with Food Assistance for Assets. It is a food purchase initiative, whereby the WFP purchases more than $1 billion worth of staple food annually from smallholder farms. This food is used by the WFP in its global humanitarian efforts. Meanwhile, its ongoing investment in smallholder farms contributes to national economies.

Through the initiatives of the World Food Programme and its dedicated efforts for humanitarian assistance and hunger eradication, the Central African Republic will hopefully reach a point where its citizens never again have to flee the country they call home.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr