Some beneficiary communities of the UNFPA programme on “Ending Child Marriage” in the Upper West Region, have recounted the positive impact of the intervention in reducing the menace.
Mr Christopher Bambaare, the Focal Person at the Eggu Electoral Area, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview, that the issue of child marriage had been a major challenge in the locality over the past years.
He said this prompted the Upper West Regional Department of Gender (DoG), which is spearheading the programme with other partners, to extend the intervention to the electoral area, which comprised 22 communities including the Eggu-Zang, Kuzie, Sukpere, Oli and Eggu communities.
However, since the inception of the intervention about a year ago, no case of child marriage had been recorded in the electoral area.
Mr Bambaare said the “End Child Marriage” intervention started in 2021 under the UNICEF and UNFPA 7th Ghana Country Programme and it was expected to end in 2023.
It was currently being implemented in some communities in the Jirapa Municipality, Lambussie, Sissala West, Wa West, Nadowli-Kaleo, Daiifiama-Bussie-Issa, and Wa East Districts, to help curb the menace, as well as address issues of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV).
He explained that as part of the intervention, the DoG constituted and trained Community COMBAT Groups in all beneficiary communities within the seven districts and municipalities, to serve as watchdogs for issues of child marriage and SGBV.
The COMBAT Groups also led teachings on the effects of child marriage and the importance of girl child education during community gatherings, durbars, church programmes and other forums.
Mr Bambaare said six COMBAT Groups were formed in his catchment area with membership cutting across all the 22 communities in the electoral area.
“It is working very well for us, and we are making progress with regards to ending child marriage in the area,” he intimated.
At the Kpaala community in the Nadowli-Kaleo District, Mr Elijah Danyi, the Focal Person for the UNICEF-UNFPA anti-child bride intervention in the Kulpieni-Kpaala Electoral Area, explained that since the inception of the intervention in the locality a year ago, they had not recorded any case of child marriage.
He stated that prior to that they had taken steps to report the rampant cases of child marriages to the police and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, made follow-ups, but they failed to make any headway as they usually lost the cases.
Mr Danyi indicated that the process of reporting cases of child marriage to the police brought the community leaders into contact with the DoG, which led to the electoral area benefiting from the intervention.
Mr Danyi, who is also the Assembly Member of the area, observed that the extensive community sensitisation on the issue of child marriage and SGBV by the CONBAT Group, resulted in the drastic reduction of those cases in the area.
He explained that the traditional leaders and other opinion leaders were involved in the engagements and education and that they were supportive of the activities of the COMBAT Group against child marriage.
“The community leaders including the chiefs and opinion leaders are currently discussing enacting a by-law against night entertainment in the area during social or funeral events since that was an avenue for practicing child marriage,” he said.
He indicated that some surrounding communities, who had seen the success of the intervention had also expressed interest in introducing the same programmes into their communities, to help curb the menace.
The Focal Persons told the GNA that they would ensure the sustenance of the successes of the intervention in their communities when the programme ended.
Madam Charity Batuure, the Upper West Regional Director of the DoG, said the Department and its partners had held series of engagements and sensitisation with the community leaders towards ending child marriage.
She said seven girls in the region had been rescued from child marriage through the UNICEF/UNFPA-assisted anti-child marriage intervention.
Three of the seven rescued survivors were currently in Senior High School (SHS), two in Junior High School (JHS) and two undergoing skills training in Wa.
Madam Batuure said the intervention had also helped in restoring confidence in community leaders in the fight against child marriage, increased commitments from traditional and religious leaders towards the fight, strengthened community structures to act on reported and restored trust in the law enforcement agencies, leading to increase in number of reported of cases.