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Child marriages on the ascendency – NGO

By
Godwill Arthur-Mensah, GNA

Accra, June 19, GNA – The
Defence for Children International Ghana, one of the alliance partners
implementing the Girls Advocacy Alliance in Ghana, has disclosed that there is
an upsurge of child marriages in some communities in the country.

It said the phenomenon
was occurring because child protection institutions that were supposed to
undertake regular and effective education on child marriages at the communities
lacked resources to do so.

It called for
inter-agency co-ordination in order to provide a common platform to protect
children’s rights and their welfare.

Dr George
Appeagyei-Ampong, Executive Secretary of the NGO, told the Ghana News Agency,
at the sidelines of a media forum, in Accra, on Monday.

He said there must be
a linkage between child protection institutions like the Domestic Violence and
Victims Support Unit, the Department of Social Welfare and the Commission on
Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the community child protection
structures to promote children’s rights and safety.

‘‘I can say on
authority that they lack resources because am working with them and even some
cases reported to DOVSSU at the regional level, they lack transport to go to
the community to remedy the situation;’’ he noted.

He said although every
agency had specific mandates, but all of them aimed at protecting children’s
rights, there must be a common platform to protect children from abuse and
sexual exploitation.

He said interactions
with parents and guardians who gave out their children for marriage showed that
they were ignorant about the health and psychological implications on their
children.

‘‘Parents thought they
were doing so to reduce sexual promiscuity among children so our interaction
with them helped us to understand the issues surrounding child marriage and
that helped us to sensitise the perpetrators on the health implications and
increased public awareness among young women to abstain from the practice’’, he
added.

He said the NGO was
undertaking Mapping and Policy Analysis exercise of all child protection
legislations and policies in order to identify the policy gaps, traditions and
customs hindering children’s rights and welfare

Dr Appeagyei-Ampong
called for capacity-building of community leaders and advocates so that they
could sensitise community members on the dangers and repercussions of child
marriage in order to stop the practice.

He said the NGO had
established child rights clubs in schools and communities and sensitised young
girls through workshops and seminars to empower them to report cases of abuse
and abstain from child marriages and other forms of sexual exploitation.

Madam Anna N-NaBere,
Girls Advocacy Alliance Project Manager, giving the overview of the Girls
Advocacy Alliance (GAA) project, said it’s a five-year programme with funding
from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She said the project
had the central focus of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for girls and
young women in the country.

The project is being
implemented in 10 countries in Africa and Asia.

In Ghana, the project
is being implemented in five regions including Greater Accra, Ashanti,
Northern, Upper West and Eastern regions.

The project is being
implemented by three alliance partners in Ghana- the Defence for Children
International Ghana, Plan International Ghana and the Ghana NGO Coalition on
the Rights of the Children.

According to her, the
long-term goals of the project was to ensure that young girls in the selected
participating countries would be freed from all forms of gender-based violence
and economically-empowered by the year 2020.

The specific
objectives of the project is aimed at reducing child marriages, sexual violence
and abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, while young women have
access to technical and vocational training and decent work opportunities.

Madam Rose Beyuo
Siilo, the Programme Support Manager of Plan International Ghana, said the NGO
is a child right organisation established in 1992 and currently operating in
more than 40 districts and 300 communities in Ghana.

It had set-up offices
in four regions to carry its operations in the Upper West, Eastern, Central and
Greater Accra regions.

It solicits funding
from international Non-Governmental Organisations, philanthropists and
corporate bodies in developed countries to sponsor children in deprived
communities. It undertook programmes to enhance children’s protection, economic
security as well as ensuring access to water and proper sanitation.

It ensured children
were safe from all forms of abuses and formed children’s school clubs to
empower children to understand their rights while key members of the community
like chiefs, queen mothers and assembly members were also empowered to protect
children’s rights.

It also supplied
stationery to vulnerable pupils to attend school and enhance the livelihoods of
households.

GNA

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