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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Child marriages persist in 3 districts of Upper West Region

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The Upper West Region is still grappling with alarming cases of child marriages. Last year a total of 84 cases of child marriage and elopement were recorded in close to thirty (30) communities across two Districts and one Municipality.

This year, another 75 children have been married off in the same parts of the region; the Wa West District, Sissala West District and the Sissala East Municipality within the months of January and October.

The Monitoring and Evaluating Officer of the Social Initiative for Literacy and Development Programme (SILDEP), Benin Yakubu speaking to  the GBC in Wa disclosed that in some cases before the Community Child Protection Teams (CCPTs) could rescue the girls from the forced marriages, they had already become pregnant.

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, SILDEP, Benin Yakubu

SILDEP with Support from Plan International Ghana are implementing the Advocacy Alliance (GAA) project.

The GAA begun in June 2015 is a continuation of the Girls Power Project (GPP) which ended in 2015.

It is aimed at helping 30 communities in the Wa West District, Sissala West District and the Sissala East Municipality to eliminate child marriages.

The Monitoring and Evaluating Officer for SILDEP, Benin Yakubu said in some cases, Community Child Protection Teams (CCPTs) had to travel to the Southern parts of Ghana including Techiman and Accra to enable them return the girls to school.

Mr. Yakubu named the Boro, Guo, Dorimon, Piise, Bienye, Yileyiri, Lassia Tuolo and Kandew as some communities in the Wa West District where child marriages remained prevalent.

In the Sissala West District, the M&E Officer for SILDEP mentioned Sorbelle, Kandia, Gwollu, Pulima, Nyetie, Zini, Du West and Boutie as communities with high cases of child marriages.

Mr. Yakubu was full of praises for the Chief of Kandia Kuoro Gariba Chiemina who was instrumental in the rescuing of 3 girls aged between 15 and 17 who were given out for marriage. He said in Nyetie, two girls were given out for marriage while another two girls were ‘eloped’. 

Mr. Yakubu recounted that in a rather dramatic turn of events, members of the man’s family succeeded in ‘capturing’ the young girl, gagged her and were transporting her to another community for marriage.

The girl who protested the marriage struggled to get away from her ‘captors’.

During her struggle, she fell from the bike on which she was being transported, she then managed to get the gag off and screamed for help.

The community members went to the aid of the girl, seized the men who were transporting her and took them to the police station. Mr. Yakubu said the girl is currently in school, continuing her education.

In the Sissala East Municipality, the M&E Officer for SILDEP told GBC that a total of 20 girls were given out for marriage from nine communities.

They include Tumu, Sakai, Namkpuie, Sakalo. The others are Dangi, Chalu, Ping, Bandi and Tafiasi.

Mr. Yakubu mentioned that the child protection team in the Sissala East Municipality had to rescue one girl from Ping who was being given out for marriage in Bolgatanga.

He mentioned that the girl who was returned to her parents, is furthering her education.

The Executive Director for SILDEP, Moses Luuri said it was unfortunate that child marriages still persisted.

Executive Director, SILDEP, Moses Luuri

He said the Child Protection Teams have been instrumental in the fight against child marriage.

“If somebody is giving a girl out [for marriage], they intervene. Even if you come and elope the girl and send her to another community, they themselves will come after you and retrieve the girl and draw the Police’s attention,” he said.

Mr. Luuri added that “when the project ended in 2015, our sponsor decided to extend it by five more years. We strengthened the structures we had put in place and introduced new structures called Change Agents. These are people who are religious leaders, traditional authorities and people who are influential; we identify five in each district and five in the region to oversee the issues concerning child marriage, [child] abuse and other social issues”.

Mr. Luuri said in some cases, some of the girls refused to go back to school. In such cases, SILDEP enrolled them in various apprenticeship programs so they could learn a trade.

In another interview with the GBC, the Head teacher for Buo Basic School, Godfrey Yuormwaa mentioned that six girls in his school aged between 12 and 16 were forced into marriage this year.

He disclosed that together with the Ghana Police Service, the District Education Directorate and Chief of the area, they rescued all six girls while two have returned to school.

Mr. Yuormwaa called for stiffer punishment for parents of girls who force their children in marriage saying “parents who support this act, they should also be arrested and be let to face the law. It is the child’s right to go to school and it is the duty of parents to enroll the children in school to learn. No one has the right to stop a child from going to school because of marriage.”

The Assistant Director in Charge of Administration at the Gwollu District Education Office, Dramani Chakurah was unhappy that enrolment of girls had to be affected because of child marriages.

Assistant Director, Administration, GES (Gwollu) Dramani Chakurah

He appealed for help from CSOs and other well-meaning individuals and organisations to help end harmful practices such as child marriage.

He disclosed that due to threats on the lives of a number of teachers who were key in rescuing pupils from child marriages, they have had to be transferred to different districts and even sometimes outside the region.

Mr Chakurah commended such teachers and called on others to also help in ending child marriage. 

The Sissala West District Commander of Police, ASP Victor Akakpo encouraged community members to share information about child marriage with the police so that the necessary actions can be taken to curtail such activities.

 

Story filed by Mark Smith

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