The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, has called for a collective commitment of all major stakeholders to put in place measures that would protect the girl child in Ghana.
Speaking during a legislators and delegates conference at the Parliament House, the acting Country Representative of the UNFPA Ghana, Barnabas Yisa, said child marriage had been one of the unending challenges confronting many communities, especially rural areas, in the country and other parts of the continent.
He therefore stressed the need for parliamentarians to champion the cause, and ensure the growth of young girls who usually end up being deprived from achieving their full potentials and objectives.
“Women and girls account for 51% of the population of Ghana, the majority, and that is the same everywhere on the continent. So, empowering them is critical to speeding up Ghana’s and Africa’s progress. Today, almost 80,000 girls in Ghana aged between 12 and 17 are already married or living with a man.
“UFPA remains committed to put in place policies and programmes aimed at improving the development of the girl child in Ghana. UFPA is committed to mobilising support towards ending child marriage in Ghana and in the whole of the African continent. Together we can achieve gender equality, empower the women and girls and achieve the global needs and goals of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Mr Yisa stated.
He defined child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union of children under the age 18 and reiterated that it was a human rights violation.
“It disproportionately affects girls, robs them of their childhood, threatening their lives and health. Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school,” he bemoaned.
To curb this menace, he said, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage had been initiated, among other goals, to promote the rights of adolescent girls to avert such marriages and enable them to achieve their aspirations through sound empowering pathways.
“In alignment with the objectives of the Global Programme, the UNFPA has partnered the Chief Justice’s Mentorship Programme, with support from the PAYDP, to provide the female head porters (known as “kayayei”) with the opportunity to build their self-resilience and shape laudable career goals in life,” he disclosed.
Mr Yisa also reiterated that UNFPA Ghana remains resolute in assisting the government to achieve its goals of eliminating child marriage from the corridors of society. He expressed the need to engage community authorities such as the traditional and religious leaders, leaders of artisan groups, students, among others.
“And the results will show how such community authorities are essential in the fight against Child marriage and the end of all Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. Child Marriage as a component of gender-based violence is deep-seated in culture. However, a culture that does not uphold the dignity and wellbeing of an individual must not stand,” he insisted.