Protecting children from early and forced marriages
Amina is 16. Her classroom, once filled with the chatter of many girlfriends, the squeaks of their chairs, and the scrapes of their pencils, is quieter than it once was. One by one, friends stopped coming to school. Friends, like Memuna. She was secretly married, likely to a much older man, in exchange for money or property. Amina feared it would happen to her. Her mom had been forced into an early marriage, and for a while, Amina lived with her grandparents. Like other village elders, they followed the old traditions. The devastating effects of early and forced marriages are well documented. While still children themselves, girls are exposed to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Child brides almost always become pregnant immediately, or soon after marriage, a major risk to mother and baby. And, marriage often means the end of a girl’s education, and the opportunity to learn a vocation and escape poverty.
With the assistance of passionate donors and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, CCFC led a program in Northern Ghana to tackle the gender inequality, poverty, and cultural traditions that make girls like Amina vulnerable. Only months after the completion of the program in March 2014, incredible change can be seen. Seventy youth (56 girls and 14 boys) provided with vocational skills training and start-up capital have started small enterprise development ventures, including catering services, barber shops, hairdressing salons, and garages to service motorbikes. More than 100 community leaders, 21 teachers and 168 students were taught about the harms of early marriage. And, CCFC helped facilitate a resolution on early and forced marriages and gender-based violence that was signed and adopted by all seven communities. Youth in the program feel more confident and in control of their future, and community parent committees have noticed an immediate decline in gender-based violence and early and forced marriages.
“ I think I am not ready yet. Many times the man is far older – enough to be my father. I want to complete my education and have a say in who I want to marry.” — Amina, 16