Child marriage is undoubtedly a global menace that affects millions of women every year and, unfortunately, Ghana falls within the category of nations with the highest prevalence rate, with around one in four girls marrying prior to their 18th birthday.
Table 11 of the 2010 population and census report published in 2012 contained data on the startling revelation on the status of adolescents and children aged between 12 and 17 by sex, marital status and region.
The report indicated that out of a total of 3,254,007 children aged between 12 and 17, 176,103, representing 5.4 per cent were married.
The situation is more disturbing when one takes a careful look at the data at the regional level. For instance, in the three regions of Northern, Upper East and Upper West alone, out of a total of 567,554 children between the ages of 12 and 17, 43,311 of them were married. Among these married children from the three regions in the north, 23,050 were girls.
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Indeed, based on these statistics, it has been estimated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that if present trends in child marriage continue unchanged, by the year 2030 more than 407,000 girls born between 2005 and 2010 will be married before the age of 18.
Objectives of MDGs
It is impossible for any nation to address poverty, gender equality, maternal and child mortality with this kind of statistics. Early marriage, as it is, contravenes the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It threatens the achievement of the main goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, and reducing child mortality.
Marrying late is a precondition for the attainment of girls’ personal goals of completing school, acquiring key skills and understanding roles in family and in society which are closely linked to the MDGs.
When a young girl becomes a bride, the consequences are lifelong – for the girl, for her family and for the nation. The common thread in child marriage is that the girl herself has no say. She is robbed of her rights and her childhood. Child marriage undermines efforts to reduce abject poverty and to build a society that is more equal.
Child marriage is practised in all areas of Ghana and there exists certain causative factors that increase the likelihood of its occurrence. Girls’ access to education, for example, is a major determining factor.
According to the 2011 Multiple Indicator Survey, girls who complete secondary or higher education are far less likely to fall victim to child marriage than those who have no education.
The act, therefore, constitutes a grave breach of a child's human rights and is contrary to international and Ghanaian national laws. It is a violation of human rights, contravening both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Speaking on the issue during an education tour of the University of Ghana in Accra yesterday the Project Coordinator for “End Child Marriage Now” currently operating in Chorkor, Madam Sheila Botwe, called on parents to give their children the opportunity to access quality education to enable them to become responsible citizens and contribute to national development.
The project, which is a collaboration between SOS Children’s Villages, Ghana and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives under the Canadian High Commission in Ghana, is to centre activities on child welfare, ensure that their human rights are respected and they are given equal opportunity to education irrespective of their gender.
She said the girl child should be given equal opportunity to education, since it would help in preventing early marriages, child abuse and the issue of school dropout, that had become a threat to the liberty of the girl child.
The selected schools were Mamprobi Sempe 1 JHS, St Mary’s Girls Basic School, Ritson Mills Primary and K.G Methodist “B” Basic, all within the Mamprobi and Chorkor communities.
“Parents should ensure that their children, especially the girl child, get access to education so that they become responsible and not be a burden to the society,” she advised.
Madam Botwe said regardless of where they found themselves, they should be determined to be able to achieve their goals in life, noting; “You can achieve all your desires with determination and consistency and a better education.”
She, therefore, called on parents to provide all the support needed for their children to get access to quality education and become responsible citizens to be able to contribute to national development.
“In order for these children to contribute to national development, we should give them adequate support, especially the girl child,” she said.
She said early and forceful marriage of the girl child had become a threat to her, denying her the right to make informed decisions on how, when and why she should get married, adding that when adequate knowledge was gained, she would be able contribute positively to her life.
The objective of the tour was to create an avenue for increased learning and knowledge sharing, broaden the children’s worldwide view within and out of their communities, as well as facilitate interaction between the children and academicians.
The Senior Production Assistant, School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Mr John Edmundson Sam, advised the students to take their studies seriously, since it was the only way to showcase their talents.
He advised the children to shun any act that did not conform to the norms governing their communities and concentrate on their studies for a better future.
SOS Children’s Villages Ghana is a social development organisation that works to promote the interest of vulnerable children and their families.
The organisation is centred on child welfare, by providing them with support in the area of basic care, education, good nutrition, shelter, health care, as well as strengthening families by being advocates of human rights.
This is the first time the organisation is making headway with the Chorkor community, being one of the 18 communities it has supported in the country.