The First Lady of Ghana, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has met her counterparts from other African countries to take a strong stand against early child marriages and other socio-cultural practices targeted at women and girls in Africa.
Dubbed the 2nd Girls Summit on Ending Child Marriage, the summit and High level discussion featured First Ladies from Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone Sierra Leone as well as Gender Ministers and Civil Society Groups from across the continent; and Technical Advisors from Mozambique, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the opening ceremony to welcome the First Ladies and participants to the summit, First Lady of Ghana, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo said the high powered gathering is a clear indication of the importance, “the mothers of Africa” attach to issues that affect girls and their commitment to making a difference in the lives of girls and young people.
According to her, she was delighted to notice that the Chiefs and Queen Mothers, who are custodians of traditional and cultural practices were key participants of this year’s summit.
Mrs. Akufo-Addo held that the theme; “Empower a girl, secure the future of Africa” aligns with Sustainable Development Goals 1,2,3,4 and 5, which are pertinent to the realization of the potential of every African child, especially girls and the development of the continent.
She was hopeful that “empowering girls is one of the most important things we can do, to promote and sustain a healthier and more prosperous society. As we empower girls, they become better positioned to contribute to national development.”
“These two thematic areas fit right into OAFLA’s vision, to reduce maternal mortality and improve the lives of women,” she stated, and urged participants to “prepare to be challenged, excited and inspired in your work towards ending early child marriage and other harmful socio-cultural practices.”
“We all know the challenges, sometimes tragic, that come as a result of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Child brides and girls who have been circumcised, have a higher mortality rate from complications of child birth and are at an extremely high risk of developing obstetric fistula.”
Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, also touched on her pilot project with the United Nations Food and Population Agency to ensure that young girls remain in school and added that “the success of this project will not only ensure that girls obtain an education, but also reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancies and stop girls from marrying early.”
Charging participants to take up the challenge wherever they find themselves, she stated that “I stand here as the representative of African First Ladies and mothers of our nations. We say to our daughters who are attending this Girls’ summit; the movement for change is also in your hands and in the hands of the men and women who stand with you.”
She urged them to use their uniquely placed voices and intellect to deliberate actions to effect the change that Africa needs and ensure that nowhere on this continent would a child be married off or a girl undergo female genital mutilation.