Today, Ghana showed its determination to end child marriage and bring about change in the lives of girls. The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Otiko Afisa Djaba, launched a strategy mapping how the government will address child marriage between 2017 and 2026.
Ghana is in a unique position to make significant progress on child marriage. With 21% of girls married before 18, it has one of the lowest child marriage rates in West and Central Africa. The practice could reduce by 50% by 2050, according to UNICEF.
However, some regions are disproportionately affected by child marriage – 34% of girls in northern Ghana are married before 18. Population growth remains a challenge too. While child marriage rates drop, the number of girls married could still increase as the population grows.
Ghana’s strategy comes at a key moment to accelerate the country’s efforts to end child marriage and improve the lives of tens of thousands of girls.
Ghana’s efforts to end child marriage
The development of a coordinated response to child marriage in Ghana has been underway for some time.
Under the 1992 Constitution and the Children’s Act, a child is anyone under the age of 18. The Act sets the minimum age of marriage as 18 and under the Criminal Code Amendment Act a girl cannot be married without her consent. In 2014, the Ministry of Gender, children and Social Protection set up a Child Marriage Unit to coordinate efforts to address child marriage.
A 10-year action plan to end child marriage
The 10-year strategy that was launched today is the result of a year-long consultation with girls and communities across the country, led by the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection and UNICEF Ghana. The Minister, Otiko Afisah Djaba, said:
“I am honoured [to be here] not just as the Minister […] but as a mother concerned with the defects of child marriage. Children below 18 should be learning and playing, not getting married or being mothers.”
She added: “[This strategy] is the beginning of the journey to truly end child marriage.”
The strategy really resonated with Victoria Quaynor, 20, a youth representative on the Child Marriage Advisory Board.
“Looking at how girls are given out to marriage, I felt it was getting closer to me and if I do not rise, it may be me someday. This is what motivates me every day to mobilise the voices of my peers on ending child marriage.”
What is in the national strategy on child marriage?
The National Strategic Framework strategy provides guidance to all actors committed to ending child marriage by 2030. In line with Girls Not Brides’ Theory of Change, the strategy aims to:
- Empower girls and boys to be better able to prevent and respond to child marriage;
- Influence positive change in communities’ beliefs, attitudes and social norms;
- Accelerate access to quality education, sexual and reproductive health information and services;
- Ensure the legal and policy frameworks related to ending child marriage are in place, effectively enforced and implemented;
- Increase the quality and amount of data and evidence available to inform policy and programming.
What happens now?
Over the next two years (2017-2018), the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection will coordinate the roll-out of the strategy at national, regional and district levels. The Child Marriage Unit, a national stakeholder forum and an advisory committee will oversee the implementation too.
“Ghana is taking a huge step towards ending child marriage through the launch of the strategic framework” said Foster Adzraku of the Child Marriage Unit. Immediately after the launch, the Unit will work to “get the buy-in and commitments of all partners to ensure an effective roll-out of the strategy across Ghana.” It will also lead an effort to “identify strategies that are being implemented to find out what works and what is not working”, added Mr. Adzraku.
Girls Not Brides Ghana, the national partnership to end child marriage which brings together over 40 civil society organisations, will play a key role in translating the national strategy into tangible results for girls. They said:
“The success of the strategy depends on the resources that are committed to its implementation. The government should partner with civil society to allocate funding effectively and document efforts to address child marriage around the country.”
West and Central Africa has the highest child marriage rate on the continent. With this new strategy Ghana could not only transform the lives of thousands of girls, it could become a leader in the region. Sharing successes will be essential to spur progress for all girls across West and Central Africa.
You can read the full strategy framework here.
This story relates to Goal A "Governments" of Girls Not Brides' 2017-2020 strategy. The goal is about ensuring governments take action to address child marriage in their countries, with the active participation of civil society and other stakeholders. Find out more.
In the time it has taken to read this article 17 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds