August 12, 2016 By Victoria Saffa
Deputy Director of Children’s Affairs in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Joyce B. Kamara, has stated that the ministry was committed to protecting children that have been abused, but noted that there are no safe homes for abused children.
She was speaking during a two-day training organised by the ministry, in collaboration with Office of the First Lady and Women in the Media-Sierra Leone (WIMSAL).
Madam Kamara stated that early child marriage was a human right abuse and that as a ministry, they would work to eradicate the practice.
“Perpetuators must not get away with it either because of family compromise or poverty. The ministry will continue to support partners working on child rights issues in the country,” she assured.
She continued that, “We must make sure that perpetrators are punished as this is the only way the practice could be stopped and ensure a safer society. Child marriage must stop, and we as a people, must make sure we stop it. As a country we need to act now, thereby putting an end to the practice. The girl child must be allowed to go finish schooling and develop their potential.”
On her part, Ramatu Kargbo from Plan International-Sierra Leone said her organisation considers child marriage as an abuse of the girl child and that they would continue to engage partners on the issue.
“We will continue to collaborate to end the practice of child marriage in Sierra Leone because it is getting worrisome and at the same time destroying the future of young girls. Child marriage hampers the development of girls, and as an organisation, we will continue to collaborate to ensure that this practice is eradicated,” she said.
“We also need to capacitate communities and traditional rulers because they are very much relevant and play key role. We also need to work on harmonising our laws on early marriage and child protection in the country,” she added.
Ms Kargbo noted that poverty was chiefly to blame for the phenomenon of child marriages as most poor families cannot provide for their girl children, thus luring them into early marriage.
“They lure them into early marriage, and the role of the media is critical in curbing the practice of child marriage. We need a safer environment for children,” she said.
A representative from UNICEF, Batu Shamel, noted that every child marriage has negative impact on the growth and future of the girl child because the practice doesn’t allow them to realise their full potential.
“When you allow the child to get married at an early age, you are depriving her from realising her full potential,” he said.
He said the practice has health implications as it could lead to fistula, maternal mortality, among several other health implications.
“One of the problems we are faced with is the age of a child as contained in different instruments. These are some of the challenges we have as a country that we need to look at when dealing with children. This is the more reason we need key messages with one voice. There is an assumption that once you are in marriage you are an adult. We also need to discourage negative impression on the girl child and the reason why we need to raise the awareness. Education is very important in this direction,” he concluded.