Government has been charged to quickly enforce the country’s laws against child marriage to help safeguard the future of girls in the country.
Anna Nabere, Project Manager of Plan International Ghana’s Girls Advocacy Alliance Project, said it is about time that provisions in the laws spelling out punishment to those who engage in such acts are robustly put into action to serve as a deterrent to others.
The Constitution, the Children’s Act and the Criminal Code all make provisions for the jailing and fining of those who perpetuate or encourage child marriage but statistics indicate it is still prevalent, particularly in the northern part of the country.
It is estimated that about one in every four females in Ghana married before the age of 18 with the rate being higher in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
“More action is needed from the state agencies to deal with the problem so that everyone stays away from such behaviours that have the potential to destroy the future of our girls,” Anna Nabere noted.
She was speaking when the Girls’ Advocacy Alliance took journalists on a field visit to the Baware and Kwamoso communities in the Eastern Region as part of efforts to sensitise them on the negative impact of sexual abuse against girls.
The GAA Project seeks to: end child marriage, reduce sexual violence and abuse, reduce commercial sexual exploitation of children and ensure girls and women have increased access to technical and vocational training education (TVET) as well as decent work opportunities so they don’t fall prey to abuse.
Anna Nabre said the visit was aimed at soliciting views from various stakeholders on how to ensure child marriage, teenage pregnancy and commercial sexual exploitation are reduced and make appropriate recommendations to various stakeholders on how the problem can be dealt with.
She also expressed concern about the high rate of teenage pregnancy in a lot of these rural areas saying it threatens the development of a lot of girls.
“Our monitoring report also found that teenage pregnancy is a distraction to the future of girls as it is easy for the girl to get pregnant again without proper counselling. There is also rejection, seclusion, shame and depression,” Anna Nabre noted.
Some of the victims of teenage pregnancy who spoke to the team said poverty, irresponsible parents, peer pressure, illiteracy, bad company and lack of attention caused them to get pregnant.
The Project Manager called on community leaders, parents, teachers and volunteers to work towards ensuring that teenage pregnancy is prevented and encourage victims not to give up.
“In the event that a teenage girl gets pregnant, it is also important to embrace them and walk with them; this will prevent the possibility of making rushed decisions subsequently that could cost a life,” she said.
Country Director of the International Child Development Programme in Ghana who was also on the visit, Joyce Larnyoh said there is the need to enrich the quality of adult child-parent relationships to avoid neglect that leads to child abuse.
Also participating in the field visit were members of various Child Protection Committees in the areas visited, Ghana Education Service, Social Welfare, and DOVSSU.