Source: savannanews24.com/Hamza Lansah Lolly
World Vision International Ghana, a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to the well-being of Children have launch a campaign to end child marriage in Ghana.
The campaign dubbed “End Child Marriage Now! It takes us all” was launch in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to engage more stakeholders in the fight against child marriage.
Child marriage is generally defined as a union that occurs when one or both spouses are below the age of 18. It includes any marriage which occurs without the full and free consent of one or both parties. Child marriage is a major threat to the survival, health and well-being of children and mothers. Child marriage denies victims their rights to health, protection and education and perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty.
The practice places children, especially girls, at an increased risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence throughout their lives. In this country, according to the Ghana Demographic Health (GDHS) 2014, one in four women (27%) are marriage before the age of 18 and 7% are marriage by age 15.
In the Northern part of Ghana, the prevalence rate can be high as 39%. Child marriage rates are also higher in rural areas (36%) compared to urban areas (19%). Child marriage disproportionately affects girls over boys; among men aged 20-49 year, only 3% were marriage as boys before the age of 18, compared to 27% of girls.
Even though there has been a decrease in the rates of child marriage in Ghana from 31.5% in 2008 to 27.2% in 2014, the current rates are still unacceptably high and need to be reduced immediately to give every girl the right to realize her full potential.
At the launch in Tamale, the Regional Leader, West Africa Region of World Vision International, Dr. (Mrs) Esther Lehmann-Sow said, protections on child marriage in Africa are alarming, “They indicate that due to population growth, the devastating consequences of child marriage are likely to affect an even large number of girls in Africa in the coming years”.
She noted that, if nothing is done to accelerate progress to the ending of child marriage the number of child bribes in Sub-Saharan Africa will double by 2050.
“We know that these acts of sexual, physical and emotional violence threaten our children’s survival, their health and education. They erode a country’s human and social capital, slowing development and tearing at the fabric of society”.
Launching the campaign, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon Madam Otiku Ofisha said, the launch is to bring national focus to demonstrate government commitment and determination in ending child marriage now, “as a nation focus on sustainable development child marriage is one the issues that undermine our efforts. The development of every society is measured by how and where we care for our children especially the vulnerable”.
Hon Otiku emphasized that, it is not enough to say “we have future leaders”, adding that, in Ghana and Africa children are seen as charlatans, as properties and pieces of decorations, “but children can never be furniture we were all children once and we can forget that childhood is best time in everybody’s life ”.
The Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister noted that, thought Ghana has made some significant strides in the area of promoting gender equality and discrimination however exclusion still persist and therefore attributed it to attitudinal problem of the Ghanaian people.
She said, Ghana was the first country to ratify the Un Convention on the rights of the child and has since enacted children’s Act 1998,(Act 560). Again, a number of polices have also been develop to promote and protect the rights of children. For instance, government approved the children and Family Welfare Policy, Social Protection Policy and went ahead to establish the Child marriage Coordinating Unit under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
In furtherance to end Child marriage, government launched the Child Marriage Campaign and develops the National Child Marriage Framework 2017-2026 which provides a comprehensive guidance for the coordinating of child marriage intervention by all actors in Ghana.
Madam Otiku therefore called on Ghanaians especially traditional authorities, opinion leaders, and religious leaders to the support the campaign.
She hinted that, the children themselves have a role to play in the “End Child Marriage Now” campaign.
The Chairman of the occasion, the chief of Sagnarigu, His Royal Highness Ambassador Naa Alhassan Abdulai called on the traditional leaders to champion the campaign.
The Sagnarigu Chief, who was representing the President of the Northern Regional House of Chiefs, Kampuya Naa Yakubu Abdulai reiterated the importance of traditional authorities and religious leaders in the lead to end child marriage, emphasizing that, traditional and religious bodies are major stakeholders in the fight against Child marriage.
The “End Child Marriage Now, its takes all of us” campaign launch brought together Regional Ministers from Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, chiefs, religious leaders, pupils, women groups, head porters, NGOs, CSOs and among others.