The Oguaa Traditional Council has issued an official proclamation to end child marriage in Cape Coast, as well as a strong warning to anyone who commit the crime.
The Council stated that it would combat the negative threat by education, advocacy, and legal and legitimate measures, and that the resolution would stay in effect until the goal was met.
“We will ensure that any child who is below 18 years will not go into marriage and anybody who would act contrary to undermine the resolution will be in serious trouble with the Council,” Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II,” the Oguaamanhen cautioned
He made the proclamation during a durbar at his residence, the Emintsimadze Palace, to conclude a three-day workshop for the Oguaa Traditional Council on the abolition of child marriage in Ghana.
The session was organized by the Obaapa Development Foundation, a women’s development NGO, with UNFPA assistance as part of efforts to empower traditional and religious leaders, as well as the general public, to eliminate child marriage.
Experts walked traditional leaders through the consequences of child marriage and related concerns, such as sexual assault, health challenges, and legal procedures and punishments.
The program is set to take place in three paramountcies: Avatime, Oguaa, and Akwamufie, following which the traditional councils will develop an action plan.
Shortly after the declaration, Madam Halima Saadia Yakubu, Chief Director of the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, led members of the Council in pledging to combat all harmful practices against children and to build a community in which every child can reach their full potential.
Alluding to the multiple hazards of child marriage, Osabarimba Kwesi Atta stated that they will work immediately in close conjunction with other stakeholders, including school heads, families, police, the Ghana Education Service, and the Ghana Health Service, to reduce the scourge.
He stated that it was unethical for parents to force their pregnant daughters to stay with the men responsible, and that such actions fueled child marriage.
“Why should a child below 18 years move out to stay with a man?
“If they bring the pregnancy home, find legitimate means to deal with the situation but don’t support them to break the law,” he said.
“When they stay with these men, they can be abused or killed,” he added.
Osabarimba also criticized an increasing tendency of schoolgirls providing their contact information to hotels and other venues in order to sell sex for money.
He emphasized that child marriage was perilous, and that inaction by stakeholders may come back to haunt them.
Nanahemaa Adwoa Awindor, Executive Director of the Foundation and Development Queenmother of Afigya Kwabre in the Ashanti Region, said the effort needed to be stepped up to make people aware of their personal contributions to the problem.
She cited underage pregnancy as a key culprit, claiming that many parents unwittingly pushed their daughters into early marriage out of rage and frustration.
“Anytime we say early child marriage, we are thinking about a religion or a particular community.
“No, we are all encouraging child marriage and the earlier we brought people’s attention to it, the better,” she said.
She cautioned that any female under the age of 18 was delicate and vulnerable to a variety of health issues, including fistula after delivery.
Nanahemaa Awindor has urged for the stringent enforcement of national and international laws against child marriage and other similar offenses.
The UNFPA Resident Representative, Dr Wilfred Ochan, praised the Traditional Council for adopting the courageous choice to fight for the rights of young people.
He implied that child marriage was a violation of human rights since it deprived young people access to education, economic involvement, and participation in government, among other developmental activities.
He stated that child marriage remained a serious issue in Ghana, adding that the rate of marriage by the age of 15 had stuck at around 5% over the previous decade, with no obvious change.
“For us in UNFPA, no girl, absolutely none, should be married as a child.
“We aim at achieving zero gender-based violence and harmful practices including child marriage in every country,” he said.