Monday, January 11, 2016

RISE-Ghana, Chiefs Take Steps To End Forced Marriage In Upper East

Mr. Awal Ahmed

Rights and environmental advocacy organisation, RISE-Ghana – has taken bold steps to partner with traditional authorities and other duty holders in the Upper East Region, to end rampant forced or early marriages among girls below 18 years.

As a first step towards realising this ambitious campaign, RISE-Ghana recently launched a project in Bolgatanga to do advocacy on issues associated with this outmoded cultural practice which has robbed thousands of women of their dignity and self-worth for decades. 

Dubbed: “Creating Enabling Environment for Increased Participation of Women in Governance and Prevention of Child, Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM) in the Upper East Region”, the launch of the project also formed part of a training programme organised by RISE-Ghana to enhance the knowledge of members of the Upper East Region House of Chiefs and other duty holders on CEFM and rights of victims.

CEFM is funded by the Government of Canada through a grant support programme for local initiatives. About CND$31,984.95 is being spent on the project spanning between October 2015 and February 2016.

Executive Director for Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment (RISE-Ghana) Awal Ahmed said in a statement, that the project seeks to harness an increase participation of women in democratic and decision-making processes.

“It seeks to prevent CEFM through the use of creative advocacy, sexual and reproductive rights education, legal awareness and empowerment of children.” 

The Upper East Region is one of the poverty stricken areas of Ghana with low literacy rate among women. According to a recent multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS) by UNICEF, the region holds an undesirable record of leading the whole country (50% prevalent rate) of its female children population (18years and below) being victims of child marriage.

The MICS further reveals, that 79.2 percent and 55.3 percent of women and men respectively in the region, sees nothing wrong with beating ones wife or partner. This shows the general lack of awareness about family laws, and call for innovative strategies targeting families and adults in general.

Mr. Ahmed noted that, women’s participation in governance was very low due to a combination of factors, and cited lack of support by traditional leaders, men and boys as a major factor entrenching the problems. 

For instance, data from the Upper East Regional office of the Electoral Commission on last year’s District Level Election (DLE) indicates only 15 women from Builsa North District and 10 from Kasena-Nankana East Municipality filed for the 144 and 76 Unit Committee slots as opposed to 129 and 66 men respectively. For the District Assembly, only 4 women from each district filed nominations for 69 and 91 slots as compared to 65 men from Builsa North District and 87 from the Kasena-Nankana East Municipality.

Participants At The Launch/Training on CEFM

Paramount Queen Mother of Bongo Traditional Area, Pag-Naaba Christiana Nge Abeliwine, lauded the initiative by RISE-Ghana, saying “we’re grateful to RISE-Ghana and the Canada Fund for this great initiative to help us understand and address this phenomenon of child marriage.

“It is sad to note that our region is number one in the whole country. I will step up my efforts and help sensitise my subjects on the dangers of this practice. When parents are made to understand the negative implications of fistula and the exposure to death and poverty on the long run, they will not give out their under-aged girls for marriage”, she emphasised. 

Mr. Awal Ahmed, said since the implementation of the project, RISE-Ghana has developed six murals on child protection and CEFM, and placed them in six communities- an innovation that promised to let girls be girls and not brides.

Thirty (30) peer educators from two districts, he noted, had also been trained whereas interest among media actors on CEFM issues increased. “Also, 300,000 people have been sensitised on CEFM knowledge through radio discussions.

“Whereas the capacity of 25 media practitioners have been enhanced to advance women empowerment and CEFM issues, over 100,000 people are acquiring knowledge on CEFM through peer education and creative advocacy. Furthermore, 100 in-school and 200 out-of-school teenagers have acquired knowledge to resist CEFM”, he stressed.

Meanwhile, other participants entreated Directors of Education, Headteachers and Parent Teacher Associations to prioritize school safety by taking urgent steps to end the phenomenon of gender based violence in schools especially the so-called “Bush Allowance” where some teachers allegedly sleep with school girls as “reward” for teaching in rural areas.

They also appealed to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to consider increasing its LEAP disbursements to households that are able to keep their daughters in school as an incentive to end early child marriage.

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