Four thousand and thirty-five girls across the country re-entered school after childbirth in 2021 as against 4,937 recorded in 2020.
Within the same year, 20 girls who were initiated into child marriage were rescued with the help of officers of the Department of Social Welfare and the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of Kintampo, Sunyani, Techiman, Nkoranza and Fanteakwa South.
A Social Development and Gender Consultant, Dr Miriam Iddrisu, who disclosed this at a national stakeholders' meeting to review the operational plan on child marriage in the country, said in Accra, three girls were rescued from child marriages in 2021.
What is the operational plan?
To ensure that child marriage is drastically reduced by 2030, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MOGCSP), supported by development partners, developed a 10-year (2016-2026) National Strategic Framework and an Operational M&E Plan to end child marriage.
The current plan is the 2020/2021 plan which partners implemented over the period.
Furthermore, she said nine cases of child marriages were sent to court in 2021, while five defilement and sexual offence cases were sent to court and the culprits convicted.
Dr Iddrisu, who was making a presentation on the progress report on the implementation of the child marriage operational plan in the country between 2020 and 2021, described the development of children going back to school after childbirth as very good, pointing out that having a child should not be a drawback in any girl’s life.
Touching on child marriage, Dr Iddrisu said it was recognised as one of the major impediments to the development of the country and the full realisation of the rights of children.
On ending child marriage in the country, she stressed that education was key to that, explaining that if education was made compulsory up to JHS, the children would be in school.
She added that religion and culture should also be looked at if child marriage was to end in the country, explaining that both Christianity and Islam did not sanction childbirth outside marriage, for which reason once a girl got pregnant, families were in a hurry to get the parties involved married.
The Head of the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the MOGCSP, Ms Malonin Asibi, quoting the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, said the national prevalence of child marriage was 19.3 per cent, with regional variations between 23 and 28 per cent.
Ms Asibi, who was speaking on behalf of the Chief Director of the ministry, Dr Afisah Zakariah, said although child marriage occurred in all the regions of the country, the practice had a rural face and girls in the rural areas were more likely to be married off at an earlier age than their counterparts in the urban areas.
She described child marriage as gender-based violence that infringed on the rights and development of the girl-child, adding that studies showed that child marriage affected girls more in sub-Saharan Africa, where four in 10 young women were married before age 18.
She appealed to all stakeholders to join hands to end child marriage in the country, adding that it required a shared responsibility and collective effort to end it.
Touching on the challenges posed to ending child marriage in the country, she said in some traditions, girls were not sent to school, hence once they started to show signs of growth, they were hurriedly married off.
Furthermore, she said some girls abused the opportunity given them to go to school by getting pregnant out of wedlock, and once that happened, they were pushed off into marriage in order for them not to bring shame to their families.