Source: GNA - Young girls in the Upper West Region, have raised concern about the alarming incidence of child marriage and its devastating socio-economic consequences.
The girls quoted statistics from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey , which said about 27 per cent of women from 20 - 24 are married before they turn 18, with the Upper West Region recording 39 per cent and second to the Upper East Region, which has the highest rate of 50 per cent.
In a communiqué submitted to the Regional Minister, Alhaji Amidu Sulemana to mark this year’s African Union Day of the African Child said the devastating consequences of the practice, deny the victims of childhood, disrupt their education and jeopardise their health and putting them into perpetual poverty.
The girls called for a collective effort from stakeholders to make significant contributions to end the canker which they said is prevalent in the communities.
Miss Rashid Seidu, a form one student of Jongu Junior High School, who read the communiqué called for the implementation of the appropriate legislation and policies that would effectively prohibit, prevent, punish and redress child-marriage in the region.
It urged government to implement all key continental policies and legal instruments regarding human rights, gender equality, maternal and child health, and harmful traditional practices for the empowerment and participation of girls at all levels of national endeavour.
The communiqué asked the law enforcement agencies to punish perpetrators of child marriage and establish a Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit of Ghana Police Service offices in all the district capitals in the region to handle abuses against girls.
It appealed to municipal and district assemblies to support relevant state institutions to embark on rigorous sensitisation of communities against the practice of child marriage.
The communiqué called on Ghana Education Service, to strengthen education and enforce re-entry policy in basic schools to enable girls who are married at early age with or without a child to continue and complete basic education.
The communiqué said child marriage should be addressed as it remains a priority on the political agenda at the national and regional levels to help sustain the fight.
This would enable girls to complete basic education, acquire professional skills and break the cycle of poverty in their homes.
Alhaji Sulemana said time has come for the enforcement of child-right laws enshrined in the statue books to benefit all children in Ghana and Africa.
Quoting Endogenous Development Service baseline survey on the prevalence of early and forced marriages of girls in the region, the Regional Minister mentioned Wa West, Wa East, Sissala East and Sissala West, Jirapa and Lambussie Districts as the endemic areas where the practice is ongoing.
He said the affected girls suffer denial of education opportunities, and skills for self-development and increase gender based violence in the communities.
The practice also make young child girls get pregnant before they are physically, mentally and psychologically matured, resulting in some of them experiencing prenatal difficulties, such as fistula and hemorrhaged conditions, as well as malnutrition and high maternal deaths.
Alhaji Sulemana called on stakeholders involved in child rights, to commit themselves by playing their roles to aid child protection and reduce child maltreatment and abuse.
As part of the day the girls who were drawn from Jongu, Kperisi and Busa junior high schools, carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Parents do not value money more than your girl-child,” “Ban early marriage in the communities,” “Cowards marry small girls,” “Religious leaders preach against early marriage,” and “Girls are supposed to be in school not wives.”
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