Traditional authorities in the Bawku area have been charged to use their mandate to end child marriage as it is a threat to the development of the girl-child.
The child-marriage menace, a situation where children under eighteen years are allowed to go into marriage has over the years been a major infringement on the educational rights and social development rights of the girl-child in the Bawku area.
The Acting Regional Director of the Gender Department in the Upper East region Mr James Twene, made the call in Bawku at a day’s workshop, organised to sensitize traditional authorities including chiefs, queen mothers and religious bodies in the area, to see the need to end child marriage.
It was organised by the Gender Department in the Upper East Region in collaboration with the Bawku Municipal Assembly and sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Statistics by the UNFPA and the Gender Department indicated that child marriage was a growing practice and more common in the country’s northern zones and rural areas especially Bawku and its environs.
Mr Twene said the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), showed that soon, one out of five girls will be getting married before their 18th birthday if the practice was not eradicated.
He told the participants that the legal age for marriage in Ghana was 18 years and above and that the Children’s Act, Act 560 prohibited any person who was below that age to get married, indicating that it was aimed at protecting the rights of children.
Mr Twene identified gender inequality, poverty, lack of education, negative traditional values, cultural and religious practices, low appreciation of women’s role in the society, failure to enforce laws that protect children’s right as the major causes that promoted child-marriage in the communities.
The implications of child marriage on the girl-child included an increase of maternal and infant’s health risks as a result of underdeveloped biological and reproductive systems of the teenage mothers, he said.
Mr Twene urged the participants to use their authority to put policies that would help deter people from practicing child marriage and advocate the abolishing of child-marriage on national platforms.
Naba Asigri Abugragoe Azoka ll, Paramount Chief of the Bawku traditional area, commended the effort of the Municipal Assembly and the UNFPA for the initiative and said his traditional area had already embarked on the crusade to fight the child-marriage menace and ensure it was eradicated from the area.
Naba Azoka charged the divisional and sub-chiefs of the area to wage war against the practice as it poses a threat to the development of the area.
The participants in a resolution noted that it took a community to raise a child, therefore society must help to invest in the future of the teenage girls to enable them to contribute to national development.