To support Ghana in fighting child marriage, Canada has made ending child marriage a foreign policy, the Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, has said.
He said Canada was currently supporting the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Child Protection Programme and working with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to better protect children from violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination.
“Canada’s support will strengthen the delivery of justice service for children to increase birth registration, reform the juvenile justice system and reduce domestic violence and trafficking in Ghana,” he stated.
The mural and social media campaign
The High Commissioner said these when the High Commission and the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, unveiled a mural dedicated to child protection and ending child marriage in Ghana.
The mural painting, drawn by a team of young Ghanaian artists led by Rufai Zakari, features prominently on the High Commission’s front wall on the Independence Avenue in Accra.
It depicts some of the challenges faced by the country’s most vulnerable, including problems related to child, early and forced marriages as well as child labour and underlines the importance of empowering the youth through education.
It bears the slogan, “A child is not a bride nor a labourer-She is Ghana’s future, Empower her!
With this, Canada also aims to raise awareness and encourage a conversation on these issues. Therefore, a social media campaign centered on the hashtag ‘##CanadaWallGH’ has been launched.
In Ghana, 21 per cent of girls will be married before the age of 18 and five per cent before the age of 15. Child and early and forced marriages disrupt girls’ education, jeopardises their health and make them more vulnerable to violence.
At the same time children as young as nine years old are forced to work in hazardous conditions such as head porters, in small mining operations or in dangerous fishing activities.
Mr Thornley said these practices violated the human rights of these boys and girls and undermined the development of their families, communities and countries.
For this reason, he said Canada had supported the drafting of the National Child and Family Welfare Policies and the development of a Child Protection Training Manual and Toolkit which would assist frontline workers and community facilitators to incorporate children protection in their work.
The toolkit is expected to spare 50,000 girls aged 15-19 from early and forced marriages and 90,000 girls from sexual violence.
“Canada hopes that when people see the mural, they stop and think of Ghana’s children and recognise that everyone has a responsibility to protect society’s most vulnerable,” Mr Thornley stated.
Nana Oye Lithur thanked the embassy for the initiative, saying “children need to be protected and equipped to get the full cycle of education.”