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ACCRA, October 11, 2012— On the occasion of the first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs has come together with UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Food Programme to highlight the issue of child marriage under the theme ‘Too young to Marry, End Child Marriage Now’. 

The day will be celebrated in Accra as a prelude to the African Women Cultural Leaders Network meeting. Lady Julia, the wife of the Asantehene (King of Ashanti) will champion the cause of the girl child at an event with eminent Queenmothers from across Africa.

Ghana has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. On average, one out of four girls will be married before their 18th birthday. According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2011), about 27% of the women aged 20-24 were married/in union before age 18. Data shows a mere 1% decline since 2003 (28%). While child marriage is common in Ghana, regional disparities are noticed in Upper East (39.2%), followed by Western Region (36.7%), Upper West (36.3%), Central (31.2%), Ashanti (30.5%), Volta (29.3%), Brong Ahafo (29.1%), Northern (27.4%), Eastern (27.2%), and Greater Accra (12.2%). 

“Early marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, increases her risk of abuse and jeopardizes her health,” UNICEF Representative Iyabode Olusanmi said. “We are working with the government to strengthen child protection and education in Ghana so that girls are less at risk of child marriage. Education is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage. When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families, and participate in the progress of Ghana as a nation.”

“The World Food Programme places utmost importance on the girl child because “we believe that educating her is one of the most effective ways to improve food security and nutrition,” said Ismail Omer, WFP Representative/Country Director in Ghana.  “Coincidentally, the areas with the highest prevalence of child marriage in Ghana are the northern regions which are also the most food insecure. On this occasion, WFP re-affirms its commitment to empower girls through incentives which improve their school attendance such as school meals, take-home rations and scholarship programmes; and believes educating the girl child is crucial to national development.”

“Ending child marriage requires strategies for girls' empowerment, social and cultural norms change, legal reform, and policy action,” said Dr. Bernard Coquelin, UNFPA Representative in Ghana.  “This   is the reason for UNFPA’s collaboration with the Ghana Union of Queen mothers and the African Women Cultural Leaders Network to mark the inaugural day which focuses attention on child marriage.” Proven solutions involve girls' schooling (especially lower secondary) and programmes that offer life skills, literacy, health information and services, as well as social support. “Girls already married need access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning and maternal health services” he emphasised.

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted last year by the Ghana Statistical Service with support from the UN System, found that child marriage decreased sharply with education. For example, Ghanaian women with little or no education are more likely (42%) to get married before age 18 compared to those with secondary or higher education (5%).


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