|Mrs. Lamnatu Adam|
Children and women’s rights non-governmental organisation, Songtaba, has through a survey, identified five districts in the Northern Region of Ghana where child marriage is very prevalent.
According to the report made available to Savannahnews, girls as young as 13 years are being given out for marriage whereas in some cases, they are betrothed to men at birth and given out for marriage as soon as they get their first menses.
The Executive Director, Lamnutu Adam, who briefed the media in Tamale shortly after a stakeholder forum organised to present findings of the survey, cited poverty, fear of teen girls to get pregnant, teenage pregnancy induced marriages and lack of protection or support for young women to be self-reliant as the causes of child marriages in the five districts.
The survey was conducted in five districts of the Northern Region namely; Sagnarigu, Nanumba North, Gusheigu, Saboba and Mion Districts. It was conducted from September to November 2016.
The conduct of the survey formed part of the implementation of a five year project that aims at addressing the root causes of early child marriage and sexual abuse against girls among others in the districts.
Dubbed: “Girls Advocacy Alliance” (GAA), the project is being implemented by Songtaba with support from Plan International Ghana. Aside the Northern Region where GAA is being rolled out in 40 communities across the districts, other partner organisations of Plan International Ghana are also implementing the same project in the Upper West, Eastern and Greater Accra Regions.
Mrs. Adam said the objective of the survey was to assess basic information on how cultural norms and traditions influence child marriage and sexual abuse of girls and women in the five districts.
|Participants At The Forum|
“It sought to gather information on the extent, magnitude and consequences of child marriages in Ghana, as a basis for raising awareness on how children, particularly girls are affected by the practice”, she emphasised.
Although part of the blame for child marriage practices lies with the communities who consider the practice to be part of their traditions, she noted that, substantial blame should also be placed on the inadequacy of implementation of policy and legal frameworks for the protection of children.
Going forward, Mrs. Adam indicated that, there is the need to press for legal reforms to bring in a uniform definition of childhood by removing the contradictions in current legislation.
She also called for the intensification of education on the need to stop the practice of early child marriages and sexual abuse against girls by the use of traditional durbars and the mass media.
Mrs. Lamnatu Adam further stressed the need to support religious and traditional leaders to report perpetrators of such human rights violations to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Project Officer of Songtaba, Mohammed Alhassan, in a presentation said the Upper West, Upper East and the Northern Regions of Ghana are no exception to the issue of child marriage, citing that the current prevalent rate of 27.4 percent is still higher than the national average of 27.0 percent which is a source of concern and needs bold steps to address it.
Knowledge on child marriage, he noted, was somewhat good among respondents during the survey. “This was more evident in the Sagnarigu, Mion and Gushegu Districts.
“Statistically, 95 percent of respondents knew what child marriage means, while 4 percent stated that they did not know anything about child marriage and its effects. The remainder 1% represented missing values”.
Mr. Alhassan further explained that, even respondents who had indicated that childhood ends at 18 years subsequently claimed that, in marital terms, childhood ends after puberty and that always coincides with the completion of primary schooling.
Meanwhile, participants at the forum condemned the prevailing incidents of early child marriages in the five districts.
They called on all stakeholders including the police, chiefs, parents, religious leaders and human rights organisations to report such practices for the perpetrators to be brought to book.