October 13, 2021
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children International Sierra Leone, Inger Ashing, has stated that Child marriage is one of the worst and deadliest forms of sexual and gender-based violence against girls.
She said every year, millions are forced into wedlock with men who are often much older, robbing them of an opportunity to keep learning, be children, and in many cases, to survive.
“Childbirth is the number one killer of teenage girls because their young bodies aren’t ready to bear children. The health risks of children having children cannot, and must not, be ignored,” Ashing said.
According to Save the Children, governments must priorities girls and ensure they are protected from child marriage and premature childbirth-related deaths.
The child rights organization noted in their press statement which was read to journalists at the Family Kingdom during a one day engagement with Save the Children girls and boys champions in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child said, girls can only be protected from gender based violence if they have a say in the decisions that affect them.
The statement said more than an estimated 22,000 girls a year are dying from pregnancy and childbirth resulting from child marriage.
The statement said the highest rate of child marriage in the world occurred in West and Central Africa which accounts for nearly half (9,600) of all estimated child marriage-related deaths globally.
According to the statement, South Asia sees 2,000 child marriage-related deaths every year (or six every day), followed by East Asia and the Pacific with 650 deaths (or two every day), and Latin American and the Caribbean, with 560 annual deaths (or nearly two a day).
The statement said nearly 80 million child marriages globally have been prevented in the last 25 years,but that progress had stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, which has worsen inequalities that drive child marriage.
The release notes that with the closure of schools, health services under strain or closed, and more families being pushed into poverty, women and girls face an increased risk of violence during lengthy lockdowns, a further 10 million girls are now expected to marry by 2030, leaving more girls at risk of dying.
Speaking to Concord Times, Ramatu Jollah, Advocacy and Communications Director at Save the Children, said in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, they brought together 40 Save the Children Champions boys and girls from communities within the western and rural areas and the main focus of bringing those children together was to look into child marriage and its negative impact on the region.
She said the meeting was to hear the voices of those children on what they have been doing with regard to child marriage and what recommendations or suggestions they will have in terms of addressing the harmful impact of the practice.
He said the day is celebrated by different organizations in different ways, thus noting that the government of Sierra Leone is also celebrating the day and the focus was looking at harmful practices of child marriage.
She said Save the Children works in the Western Rural, Pujehun, Kailahun and Moyamba districts respectively and that their work in the district has been child protection, education and health.
She said teenage pregnancy has been a serious problem in the country but for Save the Children, they are addressing teenage pregnancy through advocacy, and through the promotion of sexual reproductive health.
She said they have been engaging girls in those districts to understand their roles and responsibilities in addressing those harmful practices.
She said poverty is the major causes to child marriage and the social norm of the society are also contributing to the harmful impact.
Adama Mansaray- not her real name- one of the Save the Children’s Girls Champions from Pujehun narrated her bitter story as a victim of child marriage and child mother before she turned 18.
She said with the help of Save the Children, she was able to go back to school.