Name and shame men who marry young girls – UNFPA

The Exec­utive Director of United Nations Population Fund, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin has indicated that African governments can do more in the fight against child marriages by naming and shaming men who sleep with and marry young girls.

According to him, al­though there are laws pro­hibiting child marriages in Ghana and in Africa as a whole its implementation continues to be a major challenge.

Speaking at the 7th Africa Conference on Sex­ual and Healthy Right in Accra on Wednesday, the Executive Director said the time has come for older men of his age to stop sleeping and dating young girls.

“There are laws pro­hibiting such acts but the laws are not enough, there must be community actions against the act and the men who do that needs to be shamed. The young adoles­cent girls need to be pro­tected from such men.”

Prof Osotimehin, who was speaking on the theme of the summit “Realizing De­mographic Dividend in Africa, the critical impor­tance of adolescents and youth sexual and reproduc­tive health and rights”, said he was excited that leaders around the world are get­ting committed to the course of women and girl child empowerment.

He said it was time for Africa to give young people a holistic education by giv­ing them the opportunity to bring their creative sides to bear.

“Young people must be empowered to learn on their own, form their own opinions and make mistakes because that is the only way they can ask questions, solve the problems and learn from their mistakes.”

He added that Africans must stop dwelling too much on certificates and that it has not be scientifi­cally proven that certificate breeds productivity but its rather skills.

“We have seen enrolment in school in­crease over the past 20 years and there is no gov­ernment in the world that can employ all the gradu­ates that churned out but when their skills are devel­oped and are given oppor­tunities they would create employments on their own and employ other young people.”

Touching on the health, the Executive Director said health systems across Africa needs to be strengthen to provide serv­ices to the people and to fight epidemics that strikes African countries, adding that “there is no better in­vestment in the world than in the health services.”

The First Lady, Mrs Lordina Dramani Mahama, who is the Patron of the conference said the forum is expected to discuss the elimination of child mar­riages, prevention and transmission of HIV/AIDs, prevention of teenage pregnancy across the conti­nent.

She said her colleague First Ladies and herself have made it a point to in­crease their activities and efforts towards the growth and progress of the African continent.

“The population of every country is the most important of all, a well in­formed and educated pop­ulation is a catalyst for progress and prosperity we, therefore, need a core of young people that are edu­cated, confident, innovative and business minded. It is important that we invest in the education and de­velopment of the adoles­cent and youth.”

Mrs Mahama said under the Millennium De­velopment Goals, a lot has been done in reducing ma­ternal mortality, child sur­vival, reducing HIV/AIDS and empowering women and girl child. She was quick to add that there were two targets that needed to be work at which the African Agenda 2053 is and the 2030 agenda for sustain­able development.

She added that the wel­fare of the people of Africa must be at the heart of its leaders.

For his part, President John Dramani Mahama condemned the phenome­non of child marriages in Ghana and in Africa as a whole, adding that it was unfortunate that such a practice continued to thrive in Africa.

He said since there was the tendency for relatives to keep quiet when their underage children were married off, systems must be put in place that alerts the authorities for action to be taken.

He noted that “there is a culture of silence amongst relatives; often when a child is withdrawn from school or married off into a force marriage, we need to establish systems that alert the authorities. School authorities must watch out. If a girl stops coming to school, ring the alarm bells, try and find out where the child is and alert the authorities as early as possible so that we can pre­vent them from being mar­ried off.”

Source: The Finder

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