President Mahama (fourth from right) in a group photo with members of AOFLA and Dr. Osotimehin after the opening ceremony
President John Dramani Mahama has stated categorically that the act of forcing children into marriages with men older to be their fathers is an obnoxious practice that needs to be brought to an end.
He said in the 21st century, it is intolerable to still have children who are supposed to be in school getting married at the very young age.
“I have a girl child growing up; she is only eight years old and definitely I will not want to see her married while a teenager… If my daughter is below 18 and somebody attempted to marry her off I probably would be in prison because I would commit murder, so it is something we take seriously,” he added.
Opening the 7th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights organized by the Association of African First Ladies against HIV and AIDS (OAFLA), Mr. Mahama deplored the culture of silence exhibited by family members and society when a girl is being married.
He said instead of keeping quiet, society should alert the authorities to take action and help save the girl child.
President Mahama said it is for this reason that society must create the opportunities for girls to not only go to school, but stay in school hence, the construction of community day senior high schools by the government to ensure that more girls stay in school.
“Whatever we can do, government is going to support the first lady to ensure girls stay in schools and reach their full academic potential,” he indicated.
He used the platform to commend the first ladies for forming an alliance to help one another in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other health-related issues that affect women and children.
Mrs Lordina Mahama, welcoming her counterparts and delegates to the three-day conference in Accra, said the most important strategy Africa can adopt for its fast-growing youthful population is to invest in their health, education and general development.
She emphasized that the welfare of the youth must be at the heart of development programmes, stressing that there is no better way to do this than to invest in the adolescent and the youth.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director, said government needs to invest more in the education and health needs of the youth while engaging them in discussions to find the best solution to problems they are faced with.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri