Child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union of children before under the age 18 is a human rights violation.
It disproportionately affects girls, robs them of their childhood, threatening their lives and health. Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school.
To curb its menace, The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage has been initiated among other goals, to promote the rights of adolescent girls to avert such marriages and enable them to achieve their aspirations through sound empowering pathways.
In alignment with the objectives of the Global Programme, UNFPA has partnered with the Chief Justice’s Mentoring Programme with support from the Purim African Youth Development Platform (PAYDP), to provide the female head porters known as “kayayei” with the opportunity to build their self-resilience and shape laudable career goals in life.
Speaking on behalf of the UNFPA country representative Ghana, at a 2-day follow-up session with Kayayei Mentees of the Chief Justice Mentoring Programme, 7th-8th October, Erata Hotel Accra, Madam Selina Owusu, National Programme Analyst-Gender, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), noted that, the Chief Justice Mentoring Program serves as a platform for young people to have an experience of how the legal system works and also to receive guidance from accomplished people in various career prospects.
Madam Selina, emphasized that, having expanded the beneficiaries of the mentoring programme to include “kayayei”, each year since 2016, at least 20 girls are selected to form part of the beneficiaries.
These “kayayei” beneficiaries are referred to as ‘Orange Girls’ under the programme.
She disclosed a number of success stories of Orange Girls who have returned to school and have successfully completed second cycle as well as tertiary institutions. And there are others who have found their feet in businesses and other career paths causing them to quit working as “Kayayei”.
“Despite COVID-19 and its effects on almost every aspect of life, we remain resolute to ensure that these girls are able to go through mentoring, develop the needed skills and supported to make informed decisions about their future.
We at UNFPA take a keen interest in this mentorship programme as it is in line with our mandate to deliver a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” Madam Selina Owusu, reiterated.
She said, “Our continuous commitment to the elimination of Child Marriage means that this partnership with PAYDP and The Chief Justice Mentoring Programme is actually a viable one deeply rooted in our shared responsibility and investment to protect and empower vulnerable girls.”
The follow up session according to her is to assess the initiative’s impact on their lives, in exploring new career paths despite their personal circumstances.
“Through hard work, commitment and determination, nothing can prevent you from achieving your full potential and your dreams. Visualise these dreams and be willing to put in time, energy and sacrifices to realise them.
Do not be distracted by unwanted interferences from focusing on the important task on working out your success in life!
Life is bright, life is orange girls! On this note, I wish you a successful session!” Madam Selina Owusu, encouraged.
Reverend Aku Xornam Kevi, Executive Director of the Purim African Youth Development Platform (PAYDP), on her part explained that, the Chief Justice Mentoring Programme, which has been running since 2007 was instituted by the Honourable Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Woods, to provide continuous engagement with students from second cycle institutions.
She indicated that, it is considered one of the many programmes to reform justice delivery as well as improve the perception of the general public towards the Judiciary and the administration of justice in Ghana.
“On annual basis, young people from second cycle institutions from selected schools across the country are brought to Accra and specifically the premises of the Supreme Courts to interact with the Chief Justice, Members of the Judiciary, Members of the Legal fraternity, and also observe court proceedings as a means to expose them and create awareness on some aspects of the legal profession and proceedings that relate to the administration of justice.
Additionally, the mentoring programme is to motivate the Kayayei to pursue further education or other endeavours in life,” She stressed.
On the side of the beneficiaries, Ms Sallah Abudu, a former Kayayei worker shared her sad past experiences, and further expressed her appreciation to UNFPA and PAYDP who came to her aid, through which she gained admission to do a degree in nursing at the University of Ghana nursing training.
Awudu Bailawu, from Techiman also said she has acquired many skills and is half way through her tailoring apprenticeship.
Ms Seidu Wasila, through the initiative also gained admission in Saint Louis College of Education.
Many others, have also acquired vocational skills such as beads making, liquid soap and slippers through the livelihood development skills training.