Even as African countries strive to become first world economies, most of them are still struggling with one of the most retrogressive African traditions – child marriage. Children as young as 13 years, especially girls, are being sold off as wives, sadly, by their families.
It’s this disturbing state of affairs that has moved the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Sia Koroma, to mobilize national and regional stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the scourge of early marriages in the West African country.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, during the International Day for the Girl, Koroma said the Sierra Leonean government has reached a consensus with other countries in the sub-Saharan Africa to seriously look into the issue of child marriage and its effects on the girl child.
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“We intend to build a platform where we’ll be sharing our successes and challenges,” Koroma was quote by Africa News.
She reiterated that these efforts will help to maximize the girl child’s potential and accelerate the realization of national and regional Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We have a high prevalence of child marriage in Sierra Leone and teenage pregnancy and we’ve looked at it in depth. There is a disproportionate affection,” she said.
Mrs. Koroma also revealed that she is working closely with the government of Sierra Leone to ensure that enough resources are set aside to support programs meant for the eradication of child marriage in the country.
Since the rural communities are the most affected by this nuisance, Koroma is working with local organizations, including religious leaders, to carry out numerous awareness campaigns in both formal and informal localities.
The Sierra Leonean government is currently formulating bylaws to deal with this menace, and is also sending out memorandums of understanding to the communities around the country, requiring them to put an end to the regressive practice.
“And besides we are part of the AU [African Union] launch, we have launched our campaign to end child marriage in Sierra Leone,” Mrs. Koroma said.
According to Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of hundreds of civil society organizations committed to combating child marriage, about 39 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18.
The organization cites poverty and cultural practices as the main causes of child marriage in Africa.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on the other hand, has warned that if urgent measures are not put in place, cases of child marriage will double by 2050, with Africa leading in the number of child brides in the world.