Stakeholders at a forum to discuss strategies on how best to end child marriages, are calling for a paradigm shift in the approach to deal with the social canker to achieve the desired results.
According to them, initiating sensitization programmes in endemic communities, would be more strategic and result-oriented in stemming the practice, rather than just assembling stakeholders at one place to brainstorm on the issue.
They argued that it was imperative to directly engage the communities and educate them on the possible adverse effects of the practice for victims and their families.
They further submitted that when the people in the localities are enlightened, they would be in the position to stop perpetrators or bring such incidents to the attention of relevant authorities.
The forum, which was organized by the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council in collaboration with the Department of Gender, was to discuss effective strategies to tackle child marriage, child labour as well as sexual and gender-based violence.
Funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Canadian Government, the forum was attended by representatives drawn from faith-based organizations, civil society organizations, women groups and government institutions.
The participants also suggested the construction of shelter homes where rescued victims of child marriage and child labour would be kept across all the 16 regions in the country.
This, they said, was important because state institutions handling cases involving such victim often had no place to house them.
They called on government to adequately resource the Department of Social Welfare to enable it provide the needed services to the vulnerable and marginalized in society.
The Regional Director of the Department of Gender, Mrs Augustina Gyamfi, said 720 million females around the world between the ages of 20-24 were married off before the age of 18.
She said if the current trend continued, 150 million girls would be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade, representing 15 million per year.
Child marriage, she noted, was a growing practice in developing countries with Ghana having one of the highest prevalence rate in the world.
The Executive Director of Rights and Responsibilities Initiatives Ghana (RRIG), Ms Aba Oppong, counseled parents to desist from leaving girls under the care of males, including family members due to the high risk of abusing them.
She said people should not look beyond their families in their quest to protect their children from defilement and other sexual and gender-based violence since most perpetrators prey on innocent family members.