General News of Friday, 9 November 2018
The Zonta Club of Accra II has held a campaign against early child marriage to sensitise the youth and parents of vulnerable children in Accra on its effects and the need to fight it.
The programme was attended by non-governmental organisations advocating for the eradication of early child marriages, students in second cycle institutions, and members of the club.
Ms Aba Amissah Quainoo, the Vice President of the Club, urged the media to reset their agenda, especially with programmes that negatively affected the behaviours of the youth such as the romantic telenovelas on television, as they contributed to the problem.
She urged the Government and traditional leaders to revive cultural rites like puberty rites to maintain the good cultural practices and do away with the bad ones that denigrated national development.
Ms Quainoo advised the media, churches, schools, and communities to train children the Ghanaian way to prevent them from adopting foreign cultures wholesale, which may not contribute to their wellbeing and development.
“I am talking about conflict of character and we need to do more to shape the image and culture of Ghanaians,” she said.
Mr Barima Akwasi Amankwah, the Coordinator of the Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child, said the law on “Age of Consent to Sex” which is 16 years, should be revised because people were taking advantage of it to abuse children.
He said child marriage was common at the local community levels, which community members failed to report to the law enforcement agencies, adding that people rather turned round to blame the law enforcers for being ineffective in their duties.
Mr Amankwah said some negative cultural practices in the three regions of the north were forcing girls to rush into early marriages with some even following the men to the south.
“Most of the girls are not in school and, therefore, their interest is defined to suit the lives they are accustomed to,” he said.
He said Niger recorded the leading cases in early child marriage, followed by Chad in Africa.
He said the practice in Ghana was for girls to be married off to men but the situation had changed now with boys being married to women, especially in the fishing communities.
“They support the fish mongers in their jobs as well as sexually exchange them for financial aid,” he said.
Mr Amankwah said religious leaders also contributed to menace by blessing the marriages irrespective of the age of the couple and called for circumspection in such issues.
He urged the Government to empower traditional leaders to establish rules and regulations to protect girls and boys from early marriages and punish offenders.
“The government is working towards introducing a fosterage system to approve the adoption of vulnerable children and wards by influential parents and guardians to mentor and train them,” he said.
Mrs Aku Xornam Kevi, the Executive Director of Purim African Youth Development Platform (PAY DP), a nongovernmental organisation, called for a change in policy for the senior high schools to allow easy access by teenage mothers to continue their education after giving birth.
She said the organisation observed from its encounter with teenagers, especially porters (kayayei), that most got pregnant without getting any support from the men responsible and urged civil society organisations to help sensitise them on their vulnerability to empower them to fight for their rights.