Ghana Joins Anti-Early Marriage Campaign
Nana Oye Lithur
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, has signed a charter committing Ghana to accelerate the momentum to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) for all girls.
She participated in the first Girl Summit in the UK where international and domestic efforts were mobilised to end child marriage and FGM within a generation.
The summit was co-hosted by UNICEF.
According to the 2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), many Ghanaian girls still suffer from various forms of harmful practices including FGM and CEFM.
The data shows that although the practice is declining, as many as 7,400 (5.1%) girls aged between 0 and 14 years in the Upper West Region were reported cut.
The practice is also still high amongst women 15-49 years in the Upper East and West regions with a prevalence rate of over 30 percent.
MICS studies also show a worrying trend of increased levels of child marriage especially in the Western and Central regions of Ghana.
The national average of children married before 15 years has risen from 4.4 percent in 2006 to 5.8 (548,000) in 2011.
Marriage of girls below 18 years has increased with a national average from 25.9 in 2006 to 27.0 percent.
‘Our efforts to achieve sustainable national development will be thwarted if we fail to address the issue of child marriage and FGM,’ Mrs Lithur said.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, together with other key stakeholders like Parliament and the judiciary have an arduous task to ensure that relevant laws exist and they achieve their set goals.
‘Accordingly, child and forced marriage eradication is one of our priority areas as we progressively work to promote gender equality and the welfare of the child.
I am personally committed to ensure that this problem is completely eradicated from our country’ said Mrs Lithur.
‘Girls have the right to their lives, to make their own choices and a right to their freedom so that they can reach their full potential’ Susan Ngongi, UNICEF Representative in Ghana said.
Children who are exposed to such violent practices stand the risk of long term psychological consequences as a result of the isolation from their peers and families.
In the case of child brides, the risk of exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation are high. Additionally, chances that a child bride will die as a result of early pregnancy are a stark reality.
The consequence of violently controlling and disempowering a girl through FGM includes a lifetime of pain and difficulty in child birth.
‘Communities and the entire country gain when we stand up against violence against children, we help preserve girls’ childhood, more children stay in school, less girls are at risk of death and we realise a more confident generation more in control of their lives,’ Susan Ngongi added.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
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