Stakeholders in Tema poised to end child marriage

Social Marriage Child
Social Marriage Child

The Department of Gender, Greater Accra Region has held a consultative dialogue with stakeholders in the Tema Metropolis to end child marriage in Ghana.

The programme supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) and the
Canadian Government was on the theme; “The role of the opinion leaders and the Assembly.”

It brought together religious and traditional leaders, assembly and unit committee members, youth groupings, representatives from the Education Directorate, Social Welfare, and the National Commission on Civic Education among others to discuss the causes, effect of child marriages, and how to curb it.

Madam Matilda Banfro, the Greater Accra Regional Director, Department of Gender, addressing participants said the main purpose of the dialogue was to engage identifiable groups on the negative effects of child marriage with respect to the rights and impacts on their health.

Madam Banfro said it was also to equip the stakeholders with the understanding and the need to prevent child marriages in their respective communities.

She indicated that through such dialogues and actions, the prevalence rate of child marriage in the Greater Accra Region was currently eight percent from the previous year of 11 percent.

She stated that child marriage was when the girl or boy, or both of them were below the age of 18 years, adding that even though boys were also affected by it, the practice predominantly impacted on the girls.

Child marriage, she noted could be formal or informal (cohabitation) noting that while it was a global problem, the numbers in Sub-Saharan Africa were quite alarming and increasing by the day as African countries accounted for 15 out of the 20 countries with the largest rates of child marriage.

Ms Juliana Abbeyquaye, Eastern Regional Director, Department of Gender, speaking on the topic; “The role of the community in ending child marriage,” said it was worrying how most young girls now were willingly cohabitating with boys and men.

Ms Abbeyquaye said poverty has been cited as one of the reasons why people gave their children to early marriage or why girls willingly go into it, stating however that poverty would always be with humans therefore there was the need to take the mind off income poverty and concentrate on other opportunities.

She said other causes of early marriage were teenage pregnancy, lack of livelihood alternatives for girls and families, cultural and traditional practices, individual choices and peer pressure, and poor legal enforcement as well as broken homes and lack of supportive parenting.

Touching on the consequences of child marriage, she said it affected the child’s development and the development of society in general, adding that it also led to higher risk and exposure to domestic violence and sexual abuse for adolescent girls.

Other consequences are inter-generational cycle of poverty, school drop-out and limited educational attainment, as well as social isolation and limited social network.

Ms Abbeyquaye stated that child marriage was a complex issue that required a cross-sectoral response covering the addressing of poverty, prevention of teenage pregnancies, and creation of viable alternatives to girls and their families.

She urged communities, traditional and religious leaders to work together to address gender inequalities and harmful cultural practices that contributed to child marriage adding that sanctions should be imposed on members who went against the law.

Dr Sally Quartey, Tema Metropolitan Health Director, on her part said some health implications of early marriage included increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, pregnancy-related complications, death during childbirth and obstetric fistula.

He added that it contributed to stress, rape and sexual violence, as well as depression, and timidity, adding that it could also lead to inability to make informed decisions about their own health.

Another health implication, she said was the increased risk of giving birth to premature babies, and death of neonates, infants or children.

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