, ACCRA, Ghana, Feb 11 – The African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Dr Mustapha Kaloko has called on all member states to stop child marriages across Africa.
Kaloko agreed with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama that the practice was outdated and obnoxious in the 21st century.
He spoke at a dinner where Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta was among dignitaries treated to a special dinner Wednesday night, where the host Dr Nana Lordina Mahama launched her country’s national campaign to end child marriages.
The dinner at Ghana’s old State House was hosted in honour of African First Ladies attending the 7th conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSRH).
Ghana becomes the 11th member state to launch a national campaign to end child marriages since the AU adopted a continental policy to stop the practice in 2014 in Addis Ababa.
The practice still remains a reality for millions of girls across the world.
Globally, more than 700 million women living today were married before they celebrated their 18th birthday. Out of this number, more than one in three women married before they turned 15.
Africa has the second highest rates of child marriages in the world after South Asia. West and Central Africa are the most affected regions in the continent.
Ghana’s First Lady said despite many African countries having the minimum age for marriage set at 18 years within their respective legislations, the law to protect minors is hardly enforced.
She said in many countries, child marriages are fuelled by poverty and negative cultures that do not place any value on the girl child, except making wealth for the family.
She said child marriages complicates the health of the victims, kills dreams, aspirations and human potential besides interrupting the childhood of the girls and perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty.
She called on African Heads of State to ensure laws protecting the girl child are enforced.
President Mahama said all girls across Africa must be allowed to reach their full potential and promised to take the campaign very seriously in Ghana.
“Our children should not be forced to marry people they neither know nor love”, said the President during the dinner-cum campaign launch marked with splendour and musical fanfare.
A senior UNICEF official for Central and Western Africa said the organization is proud to be associated with the campaign and will galvanize resources and energy to end the practice.