ActionAid Ghana, a non-governmental organization, has organized a durbar at Bongo-Feo, in the Bongo District of the Upper East Region, to sensitize the people on the negative effects of Child Marriage and the need to stop it.
Mr John Abaa, the Senior Programme Officer of ActionAid Ghana, said the NGO in partnership with the United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) was working with communities and girls’ clubs in the Upper East, Upper West, Brong Ahafo and Greater Accra Regions to end child marriage.
He said the practice was increasing at an alarming rate because adults believed they had the right to impose marriage on children but that denied the girls the opportunity to make choices as to who to marry or when to have children. “Choices define us and allow us to realize our potential. Child marriage robs girls of this chance,” he said.
Mr Abaa said once a girl was married, it forced her to drop out of school, leave her home and inhabit another place and that compelled her to take up roles that she was not mentally prepared for, and as a result led to isolation and depression.
He said despite the negative consequences of child marriage, the institution of child marriage was still present in a number of villages and districts in the Region, but expressed concern that the Upper East Region was leading in reported cases of child marriage which was not a good achievement.
Mr Abaa said, even though government had put up policies and laws against child marriage, and declared it a crime, the practice was still prevalent and needed combined effort to enforce those legal provisions.
He urged the Social Welfare and Community Development Department, and the Ghana Education Service to speed up processes intended to curtail child marriage, since they hardly followed up on reported cases of child marriages, which enabled the perpetuators to move the girls to the southern part of the country, making it impossible to bring them back to school.
The Senior Officer disclosed that statistics by UNICEF showed that 96 girls at Bongo were pregnant during the 2014 – 2015 academic year, but the number increased to 111 girls in the 2015 – 2016 academic year, which was alarming as compared to other districts, adding that it was the highest in the country.
“We are calling on government to resource these institutions to enable them act really fast to support end child marriage in the Region and Ghana,” Mr Abaa said.
He said ActionAid had directly engaged 56 girls’ clubs in the Region and had trained 1,350 girls’ club patrons and role models to support in each community and further supported those clubs with resource materials, and persons to influence behaviour change.
Madam Freda Alowri, the resident midwife in the community, said 34 teenage pregnancies were recorded this year, adding that most of the girls developed complications and were operated on during childbirth.
She disclosed that school children in the community go to the health facility with books at night under the pretext of using the light at the facility to read, but abandon the books and stand at obscured places with men, some even follow them away and return at dawn for their books.
Naba Anyenaba Azaare, Chief of Bongo-Feo, who expressed gratitude to ActionAid Ghana, said the community needed the support of all parents in the fight against the menace and pledged that perpetuators of the act would be dealt with severally.