ActionAid, UNICEF collaborate: To end child marriage in Ghana

BY: Alhandu Abdul-Hamid
Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, says her ministry is also involved in national programmes to end child marriage

ActionAid Ghana has secured a two-year Programme Cooperation Agreement with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to work towards ending child marriage in Ghana.

The theme of the programme is: “Working with communities and children's clubs to prevent child marriage” and the programme will target 12 districts in four regions.

The targeted regions are the Upper East, Upper West, Brong-Ahafo and Greater Accra regions while in the Upper East Region the Bongo, Binduri and the Bawku West districts will benefit from the programme.


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Stakeholders’ forum

Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum to launch the programme at Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, a Senior Programme Officer of ActionAid, Mr John Anaba, said the project would cost USD 500,000, indicating that UNICEF would be contributing USD 400,000 while ActionAid contributes USD 100,000.

He said the programme would target 3,600 girls below the ages of 18 years, drawn mostly from girls’ clubs in the beneficiary communities, while 110,000 people from 120 communities would be included as indirect beneficiaries.

Mr Anaba said meetings with these 3,600 members of the girls’ clubs would be enlightened and organised to give them a stronger voice on child marriage and the patrons of these clubs would be trained in leadership and club management.

With the indirect beneficiaries, he said focus group discussions would be organised for boys and young men in 100 communities, on respect for girls' rights, and for them to have control over their bodies. Community meetings and fairs will also be held where girls will exhibit the skills they have acquired in their clubs to educate parents and community members on child marriage.

Ghana’s commitment

Ghana is to launch a programme today to officially announce the country’s commitment to end child marriage and to share the government’s agenda on ending the practice with stakeholders and the general public. It is also to formulate Ghana’s effort as part of the broader continental campaign to end child marriage, launched by the African Union and to increase support for the Ending Child Marriage Initiative through stakeholder commitment, including the media.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection established an Ending Child Marriage Unit in 2014 and has since led efforts to promote and coordinate national initiatives aimed at ending the practice in Ghana.

Also the ministry, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and key stakeholders, has identified as one of its key priorities, the development of a National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage in Ghana. The strategic framework is expected to build a common understanding and lead existing and future efforts across various sectors in a consistent, coordinated and more sustainable fashion.

Rate of child marriage

The Upper East Regional Programme Officer of ActionAid Ghana, Mr James Kusi-Boamah, said in Ghana and some parts of the developing world, girls faced the risk of being forced into marriage before the legal age of 18.

He said recent statistics from the Population and Housing Census of 2010 indicated that out of a total of 3,254,007, children aged between 12 and17 years, 176,103, representing 5.4 per cent, were married.

"While child marriage occurs in all regions in Ghana, the prevalence rate is highest in the Upper East Region with 39.2 per cent followed by the Western Region with 36.7 per cent, the Upper West with 36.3 per cent and the Brong Ahafo Region 29.1 per cent".

Effects of child marriage

He said the effects of child marriage on the social, educational and economic development of the girl-child were enormous, indicating that research and advocacy campaigns asserted that girls who married before the age of 18, were more likely to experience domestic violence within the marriage than those who married later.

"Girls are often at risk of sexual, physical, psychological and economic violence and are in most cases compelled to sacrifice their education and personal development activities. Most importantly, child marriage is a violation of the right of the girl child", he emphasised.