- remarks First Lady
First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma has described child marriage as an appalling violation of human rights that is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa.
While delivering the keynote address at a policy dialogue forum organised by Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), in collaboration with the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) and other CSOs on early marriage yesterday, Mrs. Koroma said child marriage’s life-threatening consequences range from maternal death and disabilities, obstetric fistula and HIV infections, among others.
“Child marriage results in high development costs and limited life options for girls. When girls are married as children, they are denied education, robbed of their childhood and opportunities to develop their potential at the pivotal life stage when they should become healthy, empowered and productive,” she noted.
The First Lady pointed out that with support from United Nations donors, she has been at the forefront in all interventions by partnering with concerned stakeholders, both within and outside Sierra Leone, to campaign and provide the alternative on the reduction of teenage pregnancy and earl marriage.
According to her, in Sierra Leone for example, child brides have limited access to and use of contraceptive, sexual and reproductive health services and information, and that only one in five of married adolescent girls aged 15-19 years currently use contraceptives.
Also speaking, CGG Executive Director, Valnora Edwin, raised concern about recognizing and protecting women’s rights and empowerment, while at the same time calling for an increase in the number of women at the decision-making level.
She opined that early marriage goes beyond being captured within religious and traditional arguments, as it has now become a social, developmental and human rights concern.
Ms. Edwin said the forum, which is themed “Curbing Early Marriage and Protecting Children’s Rights in West Africa through a Civil Society-Driven Multi-Actor approach”, is the first of many within the sub-region after the regional civil society meeting organised by WACSOF in December 2013 in Accra to contextualize the discussion.
On behalf of the Council of Paramount Chiefs, PC Alimamy Bockarie Yilla Koroma III stated that the laws governing early marriage are in existence but not effective, and that institutions, especially the police, are very weak in addressing them.
“The future of the children will be bleak if the issue of early marriage is left unattended to,” he said. “The Council of Paramount Chiefs is better placed to look at the issue with a view of addressing it because we are at the centre of it all.”