The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, has reiterated the call to end harmful practices such as forced and early marriages which prevent girls from realising their potential.
According to him, such practices were not only immoral but also harmful to the development of young people, particularly girls.
He said girls, and for that matter women, had a critical part to play in the development of any nation and, therefore, forcing them to marry at tender ages was backward and an affront to the rights of young girls.
Sheikh Sharubutu said this when the leadership of Plan International Ghana paid a courtesy call on him at his residence in Accra.
The organisation is implementing a girls’ advocacy alliance (GAA) project, with the objectives of reducing child marriages, sexual violence and abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of girls, as well as the creation of advocacy to ensure that girls have access to technical and vocational education.
The five-year programme is being implemented in the Ashanti, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Savannah, North East, Upper East and Upper West regions.
Globally, about 12 million girls are forced into early marriages annually, with many of them dying during pregnancy and childbirth.
Sheikh Sharubutu said every child deserved the right to self-development, and for that matter society had a responsibility to ensure that girls were given the needed support to develop their potential.
According to him, Islam, as a religion, prioritised the welfare and rights of women and, therefore, abusing such rights was not Islamic.
He said ending forced and child marriages would enable young girls to acquire higher education and employable skills that would enable them to become economically independent to contribute to national development.
He advised Muslim youth to strive for knowledge, which he said formed part of the central theme of Islam, and not allow themselves to become instruments of violence in the hands of people, especially politicians, during elections.
Sheikh Sharubutu commended Plan International Ghana for working towards eliminating forced and early marriages from the country.
The Country Director of Plan International Ghana, Mr. Solomon Tesfamariam, said under the GAA project, more than 262 girls had been saved from forced and early marriages in the country.
He said it was worrying that young girls were married off at tender ages, without considering the impact such marriages could have on them physically, emotionally, economically, and on their health.
He said his outfit had been engaging stakeholders to make vital inputs to tackle the root causes of violations against girls and their development.
He further said ending forced and child marriages and all forms of abuse against the girl child and children in general was a shared responsibility.
Mr. Tesfamariam expressed appreciation to the Chief Imam for his resolve to join the fight against forced and child marriages.
In a communique, youth advocates of the GAA and Defence for Children International said: “Child marriage destroys the education of girls in Ghana. Over 90 per cent of married girls are out of school, compared to 18 per cent of their unmarried peers.”
Ms. Issah Rahama, who read the communique, added that “these girls are not only out of school but exposed to severe health complications such as fistula and anaemia.
This further worsens the empowerment of girls and young women, which deepens the cycle of poverty”.