By Edmond Gyebi
Ghana’s Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Otiko Afisah Djaba has pledged government’s commitment towards fighting any forces or socio-cultural practices that are inimical or disadvantageous to the development and welfare of young girls in Ghana, especially child marriage and child labour.
The Minister vowed to use every legitimate means (full enforcement of the law) to deal decisively with any individual who would force any young girl into marriage at the expense of their formal education.
Mrs. Otiko Afisah Djana said this in Tamale when she paid courtesy calls on the Northern Regional Minister, Salifu Saeed, Chief of Tamale, Naa Dakpema Alhassan Dawuni and the Gulkpegu Naa Alhaji Alhassan Abdulai on her three-day working visit to the region.
She passionately condemned the rate at which most parents in the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions were sacrificing their children’s education for marriages and other personal benefits. She stated that 39.2%, 37% and 36% of children in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East Regions respectively enter into marriages before they attain 18 years.
Mrs. Djaba lamented that majority of those young girls who fall victim to child marriages suffer several negative consequences, including Obstetric Fistula or die during child birth. She described the practice of child marriage as ungodly, illegal and highly unacceptable.
The Gender Minister maintained that the government of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and for that matter her Ministry would make it highly unattractive for parents who out of over glorification of poverty sell out their little daughters to elderly men for marriage, to continue to engage in such practice.
She said that the NPP government was committed to fighting poverty through several pro-poor policies and programmes, such as providing vocational training for female porters, popularly known as “Kayeyei” and other vulnerable groups.
Her visit to the North, which forms part of her nationwide visit to all the 10 administrative regions also offered her the opportunity to inform the Chiefs and people about the newly introduced Ghana National Household Registry, a special unit under her Ministry, with the mandate of collating data on the extremely poor households across Ghana for future interventions.
The data will also guide the Ministry in the distribution of cash to the extremely poor in the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme. This, she noted, would address the challenge of LEAP cash going to the wrong people.
Northern Regional Minister, Salifu Saeed applauded the Gender Minister for her foresight in introducing measures that could address the numerous challenges facing the region and Ghana at large.
According to the Regional Minister, poverty continued to ravage many homes and the compelling majority of the productive youth to migrate to the southern Ghana for greener pastures.
Mr. Saeed noted that some socio-cultural practices in the region were also contributing to the issue of forced marriages and poverty among women in particular as the majority of them are not allowed to own lands and other landed property.
The Gender, Children, and Social Protection Minister is expected to visit the affected victims of the recent floods in the Tamale and Sagnarigu Districts of the Northern region before proceeding to the alleged Gambaga Witches Camp.