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WIMSAL frowns at early child marriage  

August 9, 2016 By Victoria Saffa

As Women in the Media-Sierra Leone (WIMSAL) continues to frown at early child marriages, the female journalists have called on the government of Sierra Leone to do more in protecting young girls from getting marriage before they reach eighteen.

The group on Monday held a press conference at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists’ Harry Yanseneh Memorial Hall in Freetown, where President Tiana Alpha said the African Union end child marriage campaign was being implemented by the Office of First Lady in collaboration with Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, with support from UNICEF, Plan International and other partners.

The press conference marked one month after the launch of the campaign, and also inform journalists about other planned activities of WIMSAL, including a two-day orientation and material development targeting women’s right promotion presenters from twenty community radio stations in the four geopolitical regions of Sierra Leone.

She said the media plays an integral part in providing public information and engaging communities in ending child marriage in Sierra Leone, adding that WIMSAL is taking the lead in media engagement as the role of the media was key in the campaign, connecting every village, chiefdom, town and district.

“It is going to be an ongoing campaign right across the country, and we therefore appeal to all in the media to support this campaign and ensure nationwide coverage on all events as we strive to end child marriage in Sierra Leone.

Sheku Nuni from the Office of the First Lady, while making a statement, noted that in Sierra Leone the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorce Act of 2009 leaves the age of consent open for parents to give consent, unlike most international legal instruments which pegs it at 18 years.

Mr. Nuni said there was need to strengthen the implementation of laws against child marriage, develop stronger communication among stakeholders, empowering girls by enhancing their social asset and providing safe spaces for girls.

He said the campaign to end child marriage in Sierra Leone aims to bring greater attention to the issue in Sierra Leone and mobilise efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice across the country.

Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Ms. Rugiatu Neneh Turay, in her keynote address said child marriage affects development as it is responsible for maternal mortality and that it needed to be tackled. “As a ministry we are working with different partners to see how best we can work together to minimise the practice. We now have laws that protect young girls, including the Child Rights Act, the three Gender Laws and the Sexual Offences Act. All of these laws are geared towards protecting women and young girls across the country,” she said.

“Child marriage is a human right violation in developing countries, one in every three girls marry before reaching age 18 and girls pressed into child marriage often become pregnant while still adolescent, increasing the risk of complication in pregnancy of childbirth,” she concluded.

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