Plan International mobilises child marriage survivors to fight menace

By
Eunice Hilda Ampomah, GNA

Accra, Nov.24, GNA – Plan International, a
non-governmental organisation that advocates for the development of girls, has
mobilised survivors of child marriage across the African Continent to fight
against the menace and save more victims.

Plan International took the initiative in
collaboration with the United Nations and UNICEF to enable the girls to share
their plight the four-day Girls’ Summit against Child Marriage, the second to
be organised in Accra.

The summit was graced by Mrs Rebecca Akufo
Addo, the First Lady, Mrs Samira Bawumia, the wife of the Vice President, Mrs
Cynthia Morrison, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and
other dignitaries from across the Continent including the first ladies of
Sierra Leone, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire.  

Mr Solomon TesfaMariam, the Country Director
of Plan Ghana, in a panel discussion at the Summit, said Plan International
mobilised the survivors for a positive change because it believed in advocating
for the right, justice and gender equality of girls.

“We work across the Continent, especially at
the community levels, because we are well aware that in cases of child
marriage, usually, the girls don’t have a say,” he said.

Mr TesfaMariam advised advocates against child
marriage to engage religious leaders, parents and children in seminars to
enlighten them on the dangers of the practice.

“Lack of understanding of sexuality is causing
a great challenge,” he said, and called for intensification of education
worldwide to eradicate the menace.

Mrs Wembe, a child marriage survivor from
Zimbabwe, sharing her story at the Summit, said she got pregnant out of
curiosity and was forced to get married afterwards by family members who felt
her condition was a disgrace to them.

“After getting pregnant, I was expelled from
school, even though I was brilliant and felt like committing suicide,” she
said.

Mrs Wembe noted that it was a taboo in
Zimbabwe for a pregnant teenager to be allowed to attend school or go back to
school after delivery, because it was believed she would influence the other
female students to practice same.

She said that ruined her dreams and advised
teenagers, especially girls, to abstain from sexual relations that would
destroy their future aspirations, adding: “Love is not sex and sex is not
love”.

Mr Morgan Kumwenda, a Traditional Leader with
the title, “Chief Chamuka” from Zambia, urged all countries that practise child
marriage to implement policies and initiate programmes to eradicate the
practice.

He said in Zambia, such child marriage
deterring steps included an order from the State for all citizens to register
for a proper assessment to be done on the couple before marriage.

He noted that there were special centres
established to punish sex perpetrators with state institutions empowered to
break child marriages and enrol the children back in school.

However, Chief Chamuka said one limitation was
the consensual sex age of 16 years in the Country’s Constitution that
encouraged child sexual relations and teenage pregnancies.

He said the traditional leaders, together with
other child development agencies, were going to advocate for an amendment of
the Constitution to increase the consensual sex age to reduce the immoral and
urged other affected countries to do same.

GNA

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