By Iddi Yire, GNA
Elmina (C/R), July 12, GNA - There has been no incident of child marriage over the past decade in Elmina Zongo in the Central Region, Sheik Yahaya Shafiq, Chief Imam of Elmina, has said.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) defines child marriage as a marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18.
It also refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married.
Sheik Shafiq, who attributed their success story to the good measures put in place by the community leaders such as public education and sensitisation to check the phenomenon, also said that mosques in the community over the past decade usually preach sermons aimed at preventing child marriages and force marriages.
Sheik Shafiq, who also doubles as the Chief Imam of the Zunurain Central Mosque in Elmina, made the disclosure when a delegation of the United Nations Population Fund - United Nations Children's Fund (UNFPA-UNICEF) Joint Programme Steering Committee (JPSC) paid a courtesy call on him in Elmina.
The courtesy call was part of the JPSC's visit to their project implementing districts in the Central Region.
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme, dubbed “Empowering Adolescent Girls through Improved Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Rights-Based Quality Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Ghana”, is being funded by the Canada Global Affairs in 36 districts in eight regions.
It is designed to support Government implement its adolescent girls’ vision and deliver more integrated and multi-sectoral responses to address the interrelated needs of adolescent girls in Ghana.
The timeframe for implementation is 2018-2020.
Members of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme Steering Committee (JPSC), which toured the Central Region include Madam Anne-Claire Dufay, UNICEF Country Representative in Ghana; Mr Niyi Ojuolape, UNFPA Country Representative in Ghana; and Mr Christian Tardif, Director, Cooperation, Canadian High Commission.
Sheik Shafiq, who said there was high prevelance of teenage pregnancies in the Central Region and Elmina was no exception, also noted that as for the Elmina Zongo community, they have made it their agenda to preach against teenage pregnancy to their congregations and to caution them about the consequences.
He said as a Chief Imam, he does not conduct any wedding ceremony which involves a child being married.
He said there were adolescent clubs in the Zongo, in which teenagers are educated on the dangers of premarital sex.
Mr Ishawu Yahaya, the Assembly Member of the Elmina Zongo Community, said the training they have received from the Regional Coordination Council and the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abbrem (KEEA) Municipal Assembly has enabled them to sensitise their community on the dangers of child marriages, teenage pregnancy and premarital sex.
He said they were also teaching such topics in the madrassas (Arabic word for any type of educational institution) within the community.
Reverend Albert Sam of the Victory Bible Church and a member of the Local Council of Churches in Elmina said in order to address the issue at stake, they would be holding trainings for all Sunday School Teachers in the District, who would seek to carry the message to their congregations.
Madam Dufay said teenage pregnancy has serious consequences on the girl-child's health and education adding that it leads to them dropping out of school.
She called for holistic approach to address the challenge of teenage pregnancy in the country.
Mr Ojuolape said the project sought to equip the adolescent girls and boys with adequate information so that they could make informed decisions.
Some adolescent girls at the meeting recommended that in order to help address the challenge of teenage pregnancies, stakeholders should also make the effort to educate their parents on the issue.GNA