- Dr. Klim Eva Dickson
July 12, 2016 By Regina Pratt
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Klim Eva Dickson, has disclosed that Sierra Leone was ranked 15th among countries with the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with nearly 40 percent of girls married by age 18.
She said child marriage deprives teenage girls of their youthfulness and denies them a brighter future.
She made the statement Monday, 11 July, 2016 at the Miatta Conference Hall, Youyi Building in Freetown, during celebration to mark World Population Day, themed “Investing in Teenage Girls.”
The ceremony was organised jointly by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, UNFPA and partners.
“Every teenage girl has the right to a safe and successful transition to adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for her,” said Dr Dickson, adding that young people, especially teenage girls, have specific needs and vulnerabilities that require significant investment and support to ensure they fulfill their potential.
The UNFPA country representative said her organisation was working with the government and development partners to make critical investments in teenage girls, particularly focusing on some of the most vulnerable ones.
She stated that in 2015, with support from Irish Aid, nearly 5000 teenage mothers were provided with reproductive and psycho-social services and re-integrated into education.
In his keynote address, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momoh Vandi said the theme was timely as it encourages both the government and development partners to pay premium to addressing the concerns and challenges of society, adding that this year’s theme was a global debate to invest in teenage girls.
Mr. Vandi acknowledged that teenage girls face abuse, including sexual exploitation and violence, noting that some who survive the crisis have the sole responsibility of taking care of their families.
He noted that they would often have to overcome immense obstacles and other needs for their families.
He said that teenage girls needed to be empowered for them to make firm decisions and protect their bodies.
The minister also said investing in teenage girls should be at the forefront, noting that such could not be handled by the government alone, but needed concerted input of all.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Sunil Saigal, said 48% of the country‘s population, according to the last demographic survey, was under 18 years with about half of the population being teenagers.
“We must provide opportunities to ensure they get the knowledge, skills and resilience for a healthy living as teenage girls,” he called.