Some schoolchildren displaying posters on the campaign against child marriage and abuse at the meeting

The East Gonja municipality in the Savannah Region recorded about 54 teenage pregnancies before the outbreak of the COVID-19 and 96 during the pandemic in 2020 among  girls in primary, junior high and senior high schools (SHSs).

The Municipal Girls Education Officer, Ms Paulina Attah, disclosed this at a stakeholders' dialogue on: “End child marriage and violence against children” held in Salaga, the capital of the East Gonja Municipality last Thursday.

She said teenage pregnancy continued to be a major driver of child marriages in the municipality as girls, who often got pregnant, were given out for marriage to those who impregnated them. The girls also dropped out of school as a result of the pregnancy.

She, therefore, called on parents not to shirk their responsibilities towards their children, especially the girls, in order for them not to fall prey to some unscrupulous men who took advantage of their vulnerability to provide them with some of their basic needs, and end up impregnating them.

The event, organised by World Vision, Ghana (WVG) brought together students, traditional authorities, personnel of the security agencies, Ghana Education Service (GES), health officials, community members, among others, to deliberate on the issue and to find a lasting solution to  it.

Pledge

The stakeholders at the meeting also pledged to protect children against all forms of abuse and early marriage that jeopardised their future and cut short their future dreams and aspirations.

Ms Attah said to help minimise the menace, her outfit had intensified guidance and counselling in schools to educate adolescent boys and girls on the effects of teenage pregnancy and community engagements to impress on parents not to shirk their responsibility towards their teenage girls, in particular.

For his part, the End Child Marriage Campaign Coordinator of WVG, Ms Barbara Yeboah Asare, said child marriage continued to be a global phenomenon which impeded the development of a country and the full realisation of the rights of children, saying it was a violation of children's rights since every child had the right to be protected from harmful practices.

According to her, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 2020 report indicated that Ghana was home to over two million child brides including currently married girls along with women who were first married in their childhood.

The Divisional Police Commander for Salaga, Chief Superintendent of Police,  Mr Amos Yelisong, for his part, called for collaboration among child protection agencies, community members, parents and traditional authorities with the security agencies to end child marriage and abuse of children by reporting perpetrators to the law enforcement agencies for action.

The Salaga District Magistrate, Mr David Sebiyam, for his part, called on the municipal assembly and traditional authorities to come out with a by-law to help curb child marriage in the area.

A representative of the Kpembewura (the Paramount Chief of Salaga), Alhaji Seidu Bakari, commended WVG for the initiative to fight child marriage and abuse in the municipality and gave an assurance of the support of the traditional council to help achieve the objective of the campaign.