Child Marriage in Ghana

I will marry when I want” … “No one in the world can force me to marry”.

These lines are taken from a poem written by a 13 year old girl in Malawi[1].  She lives in a country where child marriage is condoned by customary and religious laws such that even when state legislations criminalise it, the war against it is still a herculean task.  Child marriage is practiced around the world but it is more pronounced in Lower and Middle Income Countries including Ghana.  Data from 60 LMICs indicate that about 40% of girls in those countries still marry before the age of 18. Data from Ghana’s 2010 population and housing census reveals that very young children get married. It is a practice that affects girls and boys; however, the incidence is higher among girls. Child marriage occurs in both urban and rural areas; however, child brides (women and girls who marry before 18) are more likely to be found in rural areas. The Centre for Social Policy Studies (CSPS) as part of its research and advocacy efforts embarked on research on child marriage commissioned by World Vision Ghana (WVG).  The research locations were Volta Region, Brong Ahafo Region, Upper East Region and Northern Region.  We found that, although the practice of forcibly giving girls into marriage still exists, there is yet a new force, teenage pregnancy, which is fueling child marriage. Majority of the 23 girls under 18 years who were interviewed got married because they got pregnant and in some cases their custom demanded they had to move into the homes of the men responsible. In all of the instances, girls who were in school had to abandon education because of increasing time burdens resulting from child care and other marital responsibilities which includes having more children; but most importantly, the minimal provision by the schools to absorb them back into the system made it more difficult for them to consider continuing their education. Hence, even though the form in which child marriage arrangements are made is gradually changing from what we traditionally know, the consequences (school drop outs; sexual and reproductive health issues, psychosocial problems) still remain the same and the war against it must be fiercer.

CSPS recently joined WVG to launch its campaign to end child marriage with the slogan: “End child marriage now: it takes all of us”. CSPS was present in our capacity as research collaborators and advocacy partners. Below is our solidarity and good will message to WVG:

“Child marriage is a menace that has and continues to rob many girls of their ability to live to their maximum potential. The Centre for Social Policy Studies is pleased to have collaborated with World Vision Ghana as research partners in their campaign to end child marriage.  The Centre is fully in support of any further steps that World Vision Ghana will take in the fight to end this societal menace. End child marriage now is definitely a step in the right direction”

 



[1] The poem was read as part of a TED Talk presentation entitled ‘A war cry  against child marriage’ delivered  by  Memory Banda, an 18 year old Malawian girl.