The Government of Ghana has launched a national campaign to end child marriage, a practice that affects 1 in every 5 girls in the country – Girls Not Brides
At the 7th African Conference of First Ladies on Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights on Wednesday in Accra, President John Mahama publicly condemned the child marriage practice in Ghana. He went on to urge school authorities to be observant when there is a sudden stop in attendance of female children in schools.
In his speech, he expressed his sentiments towards the callous and undignified practice. In his words,
“… If my daughter is below 18, and somebody attempted to marry her off, I will probably be in prison; I will commit murder.”
Now that’s the President speaking as a father and presenting the height of insensitivity that is attached to child marriages. Ghana’s First Lady, Her Excellency Lordina Mahama also urged co-first ladies and traditional leaders in Africa to assist in the fight.
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In attendance at the conference was Nana Oye Lithur, Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection who announced the initiative of eradicating child marriage practices in Ghana. Ghanaians have taken to the social media with the hashtag #GhanaEndsChildMarriage, to show solidarity in this crucial matter.
Ghana government commenced efforts towards ending child marriage in 2014 when it set up a unit to that effect; in 2015, they established a standard National Advisory Committee providing strategic guidance on addressing child marriage. Ever since, they have been involving potential bodies to assist in the movement. Currently, they are working in partnership with UNICEF to make the end of child marriage a reality in Ghana.
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On a larger scale, the African Union’s campaign against child marriage which started in 2014 and is scheduled to end this year, has been extended to 2017. Positively backing this up, is the growing number of African countries who are fed up with the practice. Most recently Zimbabwe banned child marriage after almost a year-long campaign under the office of the first lady, Grace Mugabe. Same motion has just been jetted off in Ghana as well.
Child marriage cases are popular in the African populace – Sudan, Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, among others. Summarily there are at least 15 African countries guilty of this practice and in alarming rates too. Reports say that about 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, and 21% of girls in Ghana are married before they turn 18 -UNICEF.
For all the negative effects of giving out the girl-child in marriage at too tender an age – health complications, robbing them of their childhood, dreams and potentials, it will be worth it if the end goal of outrightly abolishing child marriage in Africa becomes a reality.