Monday, August 31, was celebrated as National Children’s Day, which is a day set aside to focus on the work of all actors committed to the rights of children.
The National Children’s Day also provides an occasion for the government, institutions and communities to renew their commitments towards improving the challenges of marginalised and vulnerable children.
The theme for this year’s celebration was: “The Role of the Girl-Child in the Prevention of Early Marriage,” which was described by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) as “very appropriate” since, according to the ministry, child marriage had become a disturbing phenomenon in Ghana.
Main and specific objective
The main objective of the 2015 National Children’s Day is to take urgent steps to prevent early marriage and also to advocate and educate duty bearers and claim holders on the dangers associated with early marriage and to promote their rights and highlight the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.
The specific objectives of the celebration of the event are: to involve children in the fight against early and forced marriage, to educate the general public on the consequences of early marriage, as well as laws prohibiting early marriage, and to empower community members on their roles in preventing early and forced marriage in their area of jurisdiction.
To commemorate the day, the Department of Children, under the Gender Ministry, is organising a number of public awareness programmes on child marriage across the country. There will be a forum with children in Bekwai and an interaction with a group of young girls at Marcelle School campus in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, to discuss early marriage. Similar programmes are being held nationwide, including discussions on radio and television.
Making reference to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2011, the Department of Children, MoGCSP, in a statement, said about one in four women were married before age 18, and that many of the regions of Ghana recorded very high incidences of child marriage, ranging from 12 – 39 percent.
It said child marriage tended to have devastating and long-term effects on a girl’s health and education, pointing out that, among other problems, it also had psychological, emotional and mental effects on the life and future of girls, posing human rights, gender, health, cultural, as well as development challenges.
It said the Government of Ghana, therefore, considered child marriage as a major hindrance to the development of girls, indicating that the theme for the event presented an opportunity for all actors who have the interest of the girl-child at heart to double their efforts to end this phenomenon.
In September 2013, Ghana joined 109 countries to co-sponsor a UN resolution [A/HRC/24/L/34] that sought to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate child marriage. Civil Society Organisations as well as some international organisations have rallied to bring about an end to this practice.
The statement said Ghana was increasing its commitment, through the Gender Ministry, to ensure that information on child marriage reached even the remotest parts of the country through training programmes, for key media personnel and public dialogues on the subject.
In this regard, the Gender Ministry had established a Child Marriage Co-ordinating Unit within the Domestic Violence Secretariat to spearhead the fight against child marriage, in collaboration with other state institutions and NGOs.
In addition to this, a new Child and Family Welfare Policy was launched in July this year to guide the establishment of a new child and family welfare system to better protect children from abuse and exploitation, including child marriage.