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