Ghana to launch ‘Ending Child Marriage’ campaign

BY: Daily Graphic

Ghana will, on Wednesday, February 10, launch a campaign dubbed “Ending Child Marriage”, in Accra. This follows a successful one-year advocacy of Ending Child Marriage Initiative. 

The launch is a Government of Ghana initiative, to be undertaken through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, with support from the Office of the First Lady, in line with the African Union campaign to end child marriage on the continent.

The programme will be hosted by Ghana’s First Lady, Dr Nana Lordina Mahama, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. In attendance will be President John Dramani Mahama.  There will also be First Ladies from 15 African countries to support the process.

A high-level delegation from the headquarters of the Commission of the African Union in Addis Ababa will also be attending the launch since the event is in response to the AU’s call for African countries to launch the campaigns in their countries. 

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Objectives of launch

A release from the Gender Ministry stated that the objectives of the launch, among other points, were to officially announce Ghana’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 frame 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.

National prevalence

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) Report of Ghana, on average, one out of five girls (20 per cent) in Ghana, are married before their 18th birthday. This equals 256,780 girls  per annum. However, for girls living in the three regions of the northern part of the country, this number increases to one out of three girls (34 per cent). 

While the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) indicates that the prevalence rate nationally remains the same at 27 per cent, it seems there is a widening gap between the north and southern parts of the country.

The Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Western regions have more than 30 per cent prevalence. The rest of the regions have rates less than 30 per cent. The Greater Accra Region has the lowest rate of child marriage at 18.5 per cent with the Northern Region having the highest at 39.6 per cent. This shows an emerging trend that could be influenced largely by socio-economic factors and less by socio-cultural dynamics.

Rural/urban situations

Girls from rural areas are twice more likely to become child brides than girls in urban areas. Similarly, girls from poor  households are four times more likely to marry than girls from rich households. Further, child marriage is a profound manifestation of gender inequality. Child marriage disproportionally affects girls over boys.  Among males aged 20-24 years, only two per cent married before the age of 18, compared to 21 per cent of girls.

Gender Ministry’s achievements

The Ministry of Gender,Children and Social Protection established an Ending Child Marriage Unit in 2014 and had 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 common understanding and lead existing and future efforts across various sectors in a consistent, coordinated and more sustainable fashion.

The Government of Ghana, through the Child Marriage Coordinating Unit, in partnership with a host of stakeholders, has over the last one year  established an Advisory Committee on Ending Child Marriage chaired by the President of the House of Chiefs, Naa Prof. J. S. Nabila.

It has also formed a network of stakeholders on ending child marriage  and identified, engaged and produced goodwill ambassadors’ endorsement videos on ending child marriage; those selected as ambassadors include Kalybos, Wiyaala, Mercy Asiedu, Gifty Anti, Sherifatu, and Edem

Held training and dialogue sessions for the media to get on board the campaign with increased reportage and discussions on child marriage issues.

International day celebrations such as the Day of the African are also used to promote the agenda. This is being done through direct intervention programmes developed by the Gender Ministry, in collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to coordinate national efforts to reduce the high rates of child marriage.

The ministry also engages senior high school students in varied activities to solicit their ideas on the best ways to end child marriage.