AU, Government hold girls summit to eradicate child marriage

Accra� The African Union, in collaboration with Government, has organised the Second African Girls Summit in Accra to deliberate on ways to demote the practices of child marriage in Africa and beyond.

The four-day event, on the theme: Enough with the Silence, was attended by United Nations representatives, Civil Society Organisations, government officials, survivors of child marriage in 30 countries across the Continent.

Other partner organisations include Plan International, an international non-government organisation that advocates for the development of children.

Mrs Samira Bawumia, the Wife of the Vice President, said globally, girls within the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth to 15 million babies annually, however, many did not seek antenatal or professional care even though it could have serious repercussions on both mother and child.

She said UNICEF estimated that 15 million girls worldwide marry before attaining age 18 each year, meaning 41,000 girls got married each day and 28 got married each minute.

She said in the contemporary world, 700 million women were married before attaining the age of 18 and that was equivalent to 10 per cent of the world’s population.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40 per cent of girls are forced into marriages before attaining the age of 18 with Niger being the highest prevalence Country with 76 per cent of child marriages.

This is followed by Chad and the Central African Republic with 68 and 67 per cent respectively.

Mrs Bawumia noted that in Ghana, 27 per cent of girls aged between 24 and 29 years were married before their 18th birthday, adding that the high rate of increment in child marriages in the three regions of the north could increase it to 34 per cent soon.

She explained that boys were also victims of child marriage and UNICEF research in July 2014 indicated that globally 156 million men got married before attaining the age of 18 while 33 million were married before age 15.

Child marriage is a human right violation, which robs the girl child of her right to have safety, security and to choose whom, when and if they want to get married, she said.

UNICEF estimates that if nothing significant is done to curb the situation, the number of child brides in Sub-Saharan Africa would double by 2050.

Mrs Bawumia said victims could suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences such as unsafe abortions and traumatic fistula as well as sexually transmitted infections.

She mentioned economic hardships, incentives offered to parents by older men to persuade them into giving their children for marriages, bride prices of children demanded from men due to family financial constraints, traditional and cultural beliefs and teenage pregnancies as key drivers that make some communities predominant in practising child marriages.

She, therefore, urged parents to send their children to school as it contributes to the girls’ development and postpones marriage.

The longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to get pregnant or be married, she said.

Mrs Bawumia called on religious and traditional leaders to desist from performing rites of marriages that involve children and urged African governments to establish vocational and technical skills training for girls and boys who are not enrolled in formal education to curb the menace.

Mrs Cynthia Morrison, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, urged governments and non-governmental organisations to set up platforms to discuss gender and child related problems, especially child marriage and abuse.

She said child marriage underestimated the role of a child in deciding on what the child wishes for his or her life, a practice that infringed on their rights, which needed to be discouraged.

Source: Ghana News Agency