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Community-led efforts make strides against child marriage in Volta Region

Community-led efforts make strides against child marriage in the Volta Region

By: Antoinette Abbah

Child Marriage remains a concern, although for now we have seen some decline.”These poignant words from Volta Regional Director, Department of Gender, Thywill Kpe, encapsulate the complex and pressing issue that continues to cast a shadow over the Volta Region.

Disturbingly, one in every five women aged 20-24 years were first married before age 18 years. This remains lower, as one in every 20 women for the same age group, married for the first time before turning 15 years. Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, and religions. Globally, about 650 million women and girls alive today were married as children.


Current data from the Ghana Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey 2017/2018 shows a decline in the rate of Child Marriage, from 29.3 per cent in 2011, to a current 24 per cent. The practice occurs in all regions of the country with Upper East, Northern, Central, Upper West, Eastern and Volta Regions leading, with one in 4 girls getting married before their 18th birthday.

Volta Regional Director, Department of Gender, Thywill Kpe.

In an interview Madam Kpe noted that “we are doing some good work, but we need to see greater reduction in the actual number of girls getting married or cohabiting. Although child marriage can impact both genders, it predominantly affects girls. It has profound far-reaching consequences affecting not only the child brides themselves but also their offspring, families, and entire nation”.


Despite laws against it, Child marriage continues to prevail primarily due to factors such as poverty, culture, and traditions. In cases of severe economic distress, families often arrange marriages for their daughters due to the scarcity of food.

Additionally, impoverished families may be inclined to marry their daughters at a younger age to receive financial support from the man’s family. According to Madam Kpe “due to poverty, some parents give away the hands of their child to early marriage. It’s a heartbreaking situation that we must address as a society. They see early marriage as a way to alleviate their economic burden. However, we cannot allow this practice to continue. Early marriage robs children of their childhood, education, and a chance at a better future’’.

Another factor is culture and traditions. Here a pregnant girl is married off quickly to cover up giving birth out of wedlock. “You know, in some communities, when a young girl becomes pregnant, there’s a strong emphasis on preserving family honor. So, what often happens is that the family arranges for her to get married quickly. This is done to avoid any stigma associated with giving birth out of wedlock. It’s important to understand that these customs can vary widely from one culture to another. While some see it as a means to protect the girl and her family’s reputation, others may view it as a restrictive practice. It really highlights the complexity of how culture and traditions shape people’s lives’’ Madam Kpe noted.


With the Volta Region considered a leading region with cases of child marriage, there have been a number of interventions over the years to

reduce it. Key among them is the Adolescent Girls Learning Forum, ADOLEF, by the United Nations Population Fund that brings together girls to learn and share best practices on combating child marriage and teenage pregnancies as well as creating safe spaces for girls to strive.

Madam Kpe said another key intervention by the Region is the Gender Equality Male Schools, “this is to get the men understand the tenets of gender equality and the need for them to support women and girls and say no to child marriage”.

“This programme has truly been an eye-opener for me. It has helped me understand the importance of gender equality and the urgent need for us, as men, to support women and girls in our community”, a beneficiary Alfred Duka said. “I’ve realized the detrimental impact of child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and I’m committed to saying no to these harmful practices. I am eager to share what I’ve learned with other men in our community. It’s crucial that we all come together to promote gender equality and put an end to child marriage and SGBV. We can make a difference, and I’m determined to be part of the solution, raising awareness and educating my fellow men about the importance of supporting women and girls. Together, we can create a more equitable and safer society for everyone.” Alfred Duker added.


Poor Parenting has been identified as contributing to child marriage, teenage pregnancy and gender based violence in the region. Many parents are not performing their roles when it comes to sex education while some are afraid to engage their children in that conversation. Madam Kpe said in engagements with the children, they suggested the involvement of their parents. Recognising the importance of parental involvement, Seven

Community Parent Advocacy Network Groups in the Volta Region was birthed to train parents on sexual and reproductive health and their responsibilities assigned to them by law. The Volta Regional Gender Director said about 50 parents from seven communities were trained to lead the advocacy within the community. “they do advocacy with parent groups in the communities as well as engage children on SGBV issues, meet in churches, community meetings, and any other group that brings together parents, Madam Kpe emphasized.


Through UNFPA’s support in the Volta Region, a local drama was created in the local language, serving as a powerful tool for disseminating essential information to parents. Additionally, UNFPA extended assistance to those in need, particularly vulnerable beneficiaries. They further championed the empowerment of persons with disabilities by facilitating skills development in various trades. Moreover, UNFPA is helping with access to neighboring communities, fostering collaboration and exchange of knowledge and resources to help reduce teenage pregnancy and child marriage.


A major challenge affecting the work of Community Parent Advocacy Network is insufficient financial support. The group struggles with inadequate funds, receiving less than 300 cedis per quarter for their activities. This limited funding hampers their ability to effectively address child marriage in the community, as it restricts their capacity to organize awareness creation programmes and outreach efforts.

The constant financial constraints and limited resources also lead to fatigue and apathy among group members. The stress of working with limited means to tackle such a complex issue can result in burnout, potentially affecting the group’s motivation and efficiency over time.

Again, Child marriage persists partly due to the resistance of some parents who are unwilling to change their traditional beliefs and practices. These recalcitrant parents can be a significant challenge, as convincing them to abandon the practice of child marriage requires patience, persistence, and resources.


The Community Parent Advocacy Network in the Volta Region has been instrumental in raising awareness about the harms of child marriage within the Volta Region. They have encouraged these young mothers to return to secondary school. This not only empowers the girls but also sets an example within the community that education is a priority. The impact is evident in the academic success stories of these teenage mothers. Many of them have not only rejoined school but are also excelling academically. The success stories of these teenage mothers serve as inspiration, encouraging other families to prioritize education over early marriage.


Volta Regional Director, Department of Gender, said plans are far advanced to extend the Community Parent Advocacy Network to Keta, Akatsi North and Central Tongu districts that are also grappling with child marriage and SGBV issues. Furthermore, she said there is the need to

develop a curriculum tailored to the unique needs of each district, as well as provide necessary resources, training materials, educational resources for parents, and communication tools.

As the community-driven initiatives continue to gain momentum, there is hope that the shadow of child marriage will eventually recede, allowing young girls to flourish, pursue education, and build brighter futures for themselves and their communities.


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