Religious and opinion leaders in the Western Region have been urged to help end child marriage by doubling their efforts in the fight.
According to the regional office of the Department of Gender, the fight against child marriage in is not encouraging and that there is no way this negative practice will end without sustained efforts by all stakeholders, especially religious leaders.
It is as a result of this that the Department of Gender is calling for enhanced efforts to ensure the that people say goodbye to this practice by 2030.
Maribel A Okine, the Regional Director of Gender, who made the call during a workshop for about 60 religious and opinion leaders, described the region’s fourth position on the national child marriage league table as a shame which needs to be worked on.
The workshop was a follow-up to a similar one organised for the religious leaders barely a month ago, and focussed on health implications of child marriage.
It was organised by the Department of Gender, under the auspices of the Western Regional Coordinating Council, with funding from the United Nation Population Fund and the Canadian government.
Ms Okine said statistics indicate that child marriages in Western Region have increased by 1.9 per cent in the last 10 years and 20 per cent in the last 25 years.
This, she said, is nothing to be proud of, and reiterated the need for more collaborative and sustained efforts towards the fight through constant education, particularly in remote areas.
She appealed to the participants to take up the fight by not only counselling their followers but also exhibiting exceptional leadership traits to instil confidence in them.
She reminded the participants that there are global legal frameworks prohibiting child, forced and early marriages, adding that those caught endorsing any of these practices would be made to face the full rigours of the law.
In Ghana, Miss Okine said, Act 29 of the 1960 Criminal Code and the Children’s Act clearly spell out punitive measures, with culprits serving between three to 25 years jail term.
In a brief presentation, a Physician Assistant at the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital, Dr Ernest Obeng, cited early and late pregnancy complications such as miscarriages, acute urinary retention, ectopic and untimely death as some health implications of child marriage.
He also mentioned truncation of educational opportunities, depression, low self esteem and isolation as a few of the socio – economic effects of child marriage.
Later in an open forum, the participants identified poverty, greed, negligence and parental irresponsibility, among others, as causes of child marriage, and impressed on all religious leaders to demand the date of birth of girls before performing marriage rites.