General News of Saturday, 24 November 2018
Four African First Ladies are holding a meeting in Accra to take a strong stand against early child marriages and other socio-cultural practices targeted at girls in Africa.
The meeting dubbed: “The 2nd Girls Summit on Ending Child Marriage”, featured First Ladies from Ghana, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone.
Also present were gender ministers, civil society groups and technical advisors from parts of the continent including Mozambique, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The two-day summit on the theme: “Enough of the silence”, is being organised by the African Union (AU) and hosted by the Office of the First Lady of Ghana, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in partnership with Plan Ghana, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA).
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, said the high-level gathering was a clear indication of the importance attached to issues that affected girls, and the commitment to make a difference in the lives of girls and young people.
She said girls who were married off at an early age did not only suffer emotionally but were also affected psychologically and physically.
According to her, four out of 10 girls were married off before the ages of 18 years in Africa while in Ghana, the national average of girls in this category was 21 per cent.
“We all know the challenges, sometimes tragic that comes as a result of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Child brides and girls, who have been circumcised, have a higher mortality rate from complications of child birth and are at an extremely high risk of developing obstetric fistula,” she stated.
It was for this reason, she said, that Ghana had committed to fully implementing its 10-year strategic plan framework on Ending Child Marriage, which was launched in 2016 with a two-year operational plan to ensure youthful livelihood and socio-economic transformation by 2030.
By empowering girls, Mrs Akufo-Addo said, they became better positioned to contribute to national development.
She, therefore, called on all African First Ladies, civil society, the AU and all other stakeholders to work assiduously to end child marriage.
“Let’s protect the children”
In an address, the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, urged parents and the general society to protect children and allow them to enjoy their childhood, and enjoy marriage at the right age.
While condemning the act of hiding behind religion, culture and power to encourage the act of child marriage, she said, children needed to be educated and empowered to become responsible future leaders and contribute their quota to the development of the continent.
Child marriage, she said, did not only affect the child involved but the mother as well.
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For her part, the Commissioner of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC), Ms Amira El Fadil, said ending child marriage was a priority of the AU, which recognises it as a development, cultural, health, political and religious issue which needed to be addressed.
She said the AU launched a campaign in 2014 to end child marriage which was adopted by 24 member states.
Madam Fadi further disclosed that out of the number of member states who adopted the campaign, 30 per cent enforced and enacted laws that protected girls, while 41 per cent developed a national strategic plan.