F rom (right) Susan Ngongi, Nana Oye Lithur (third right), Lilliane Ploumen (fourth right) with other dignitaries at the event.
The Government of Netherlands has provided funds to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection in support of programmes aimed at addressing the issue of early and child marriages in the country.
The £6 million fund would be used by the two organisations to engage in activities that would empower girls and train them in various skills that would take them off the street and give them the right to choose when to be married.
Ms Lilliane Ploumen, Dutch Minister of International Trade and Development Cooperation, officially launching the agreement at the Assemblies of God Relief and Development Service (AGREDS), Agbogbloshie, said the fund is to, ‘really help get the girls off the street and give them the right to say yes or no to early marriages.’
She said together with UNICEF, the Dutch Government had designed a long-term programme that would address the root cause of early marriages and hoped that with continuous commitments and determination, child and early marriages would be brought to an end.
Ms Susan Ngongi, UNICEF country representative, in her address, said Ghana has a long-standing phenomenon of early child marriages, which is a problem that threatens not only the development and prospects of the individual but also, pose serious risk to the overall development of the country.
She said the trend of early marriages has increased in some parts of the country according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 2011.
‘Comparing results from the two most recent MICS show that a national increase in early marriages before 15 rose from 4.4 percent in 2006 to 5.8 in 2011, under 18 years has increase with national average from 25.9 percent to 27 percent in 2011,’ she said.
Ms Ngongi said UNICEF together with the government agencies would provide interventions using distinct strategies that have been proven.
‘We will support behavioural changes aiming at challenging perception and norms that perpetuate child marriages, increase educational support for girls who are currently out of school and at risk of marriage, strengthen birth registration to help enforce the laws and work with government to strengthen capacity for coordination monitory and documentation of results,’ she said.
Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender Children and Social Protection acknowledged the support from the Government of Netherlands and assured the gathering that government would utilise the fund for the purpose for which it was donated.
‘We will work so our girls can get off the street and learn a skill so they can also be economically empowered to help in the development of the nation,’ she added.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
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