Illegal Mining activities popularly known as ‘galamsey’ at Sherigu, a suburb of Bolgatanga Municipality of the Upper East Region has been identified as major cause of teenage pregnancy and child marriage in the area.
Parents spend more time engaging in the activities without paying the necessary attention to their wards, given room for their teenage children to indulge in risky sexual behaviours leading to pregnancy and early marriage.
Stakeholders who expressed concern about the phenomenon revealed that young men who also engaged in the activities used the money earned to lure the teenage girls into sexual activities, impregnating them.
This came to light when the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), with funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) donated delivery and hygiene materials to some teenage mothers and teenage pregnant girls at Pumpungu, a community at Sherigu as part of the implementation of the “end child marriage project”.
Madam Sarah Ayidiya, Midwife at Pumpungu Community-based Health Planning Services (CHPS) compound, noted that the main occupation of residents of the area especially the dry season was illegal mining and added that the situation had led to parents having less time with their children to monitor their movement.
Madam Ayidiya noted that many young boys of school going age had dropped out of school to engage in the illegal mining activities and the boys used their monies to lure girls into unprotected sex.
She said girls who got pregnant were forced into marriage and many had dropped out of school in the process and expressed the concern that the situation if not addressed, could hamper the development of girls in the area.
The Midwife therefore called on the traditional leaders, community leaders and the local government authorities to collectively work to address the menace of illegal mining to help curb teenage pregnancy and child mariage.
“We are also coming up with the family planning initiative to engage youth but we think the chiefs and the Assemblymen need to engage the youth and get them back to school, that way they will understand that the galamsey will not help them,” she added.
Madam Martha Atule, Outgoing Field Officer, PPAG, noted that child marriage has become a major impediment to girls’ education and women empowerment particularly in the rural areas and there was the need for stakeholders to address them the canker.
Madam Atule noted that apart from poverty which compelled the girls to engage in transactional sex, parental negligence and failure of parents to provide the needs of their wards push them to indulge in premarital sex, resulting in teenage pregnancy and being forced into marriage.
She said as part of efforts to help end child marriage phenomenon, PPAG had been providing information on Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights to the adolescents to enable them make to informed decisions.
She said PPAG had also provided economic empowerment to teenage mothers and supported others to return to school to further education and appealed to the parents not to neglect their teenage children who got pregnant but instead support them to learn a trade.