POWER Project, a model for eliminating child marriage

Accra, June 23, GNA - Ideally it is the wish and will of every growing girl child to be nurtured and well-groomed until that time a man will asks for her hand in marriage just as the Holy books and other traditions recommend.

Child Marriage
This makes parents, society and the child feel proud especially the mother with their dreams fulfilled.

For many girls in developing countries like Ghana especially in the country, the situation is different, as girls become child brides before their 15th or 18th birthday.

Ironically, this practice is encouraged in traditional Ghanaian societies, where premarital sex and childbearing are frowned upon.

The multiple indicator cluster survey (2011) shows that 4.4 and 5.8 per cent of women aged 15–49 married by exact age 15 in 2006 and 2011 respectively.

Additionally, among women aged 20–24, the proportion that married before exact age of 18 was 22 per cent in 2006 and 21 per cent in 2011.
Causes of child marriage

Many reasons have been assigned to the old traditional practice as the causes, but poverty and high level of ignorance are the topmost.

In most cases, mothers are not in favour of such practices, but the fear of triggering violence against them and divorces coerce them to succumb to the dictates of the men.

Its influence on child marriage is multi-dimensional that stems from parents’ socio-economic status and children’s demand for material goods that their parents cannot afford (in some cases attributable to parental neglect and supervision), according to a 2019 study by Ahonsi, B., Fuseini, K., Nai, D. et al. Titled, Child marriage in Ghana: evidence from a multi-method study, reveals that some parents and girls are motivated by financial gains and security to the family and they tend to agree to child marriage. In some cases, it provides financial stability to girls coming from economically disadvantaged homes as some child brides are married to escape poverty.

Child brides do not only get financial support from their husbands, but also from their in-laws to ensure they lack little or nothing.

Some child brides are also able to amass some wealth from their husbands to take care of their own families.

Hence, parents who marry their children off early “are not necessarily heartless parents but, rather, parents who are surviving under heartless conditions”, as some parents use child marriage as a strategy to break out of poverty.

This Madam Azumi Mesuna, the POWER project Manager at ActionAid Ghana explains that most of the mothers aside the fear of violence do not generate enough income and that made them have little or no say in the decision of their girl child.

In nurturing children, parents have the expectations to see they grow and become good people to serve society and provide care to them as well, which is regarded as a social obligation.

With this hope, and the natural assigned responsibilities of women being home makers for decades to care for the children and entire family, yet her decision and value of the unpaid care work in bringing up the child is not counted nor valued when it comes to decision about the future of the girl.

She said power and economics are often underpinned by violence. Thus, limited access to productive resources by women the desire by some men to continue to dominate, exploit women and girls due to socially created status quo led to violence against women.

Women at the receiving end
In Ghana the largest economic deprived groups are women. The proportion of males 71.4 percent that is employed is relatively higher than females 64.7 per cent, according to the 2015 labour force report compiled by the Ghana Statistical Service.

Naadi Nlinkiba, a resident of Dalanyili in Nanumba South District sums what used to happen, “In this community Child marriage was perpetuated because some families are poor, and the contribution of women was perceived to be less or nothing. Our daughters were exchanged for marriage and when we refuse as mothers, we were beaten”.

Working with stakeholders Madam Mesuna says the Promoting Opportunities for Women Empowerment and Rights (POWER) project has figured out a breakthrough as women are playing a key role in reversing early child marriage decisions by their husbands.

Naadi and some 6,280 women were mobilized into groups and equipped with economic empowerment trainings such as leadership and negotiation, building support and networks to combat violence against women, provision of small ruminants and provision of farm inputs as well support for market information and records have built women’s capacity in over hundred (100) communities in (district name) women platforms and groups have also adopted the “Women Savings Schemes” (WSS) to increase their access to capital, which enabled them to engage in other trading activities.

Acquisition of knowledge
Aside from the business training, the women were taught improved agriculture practices such as using local materials to prepare compost fertilizer, low tillage, use of improved and organic seeds, and another natural way of farming that is less expensive and within their control.

Through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded POWER project; access, control, and ownership of productive resources is now a reality for her. The play of power and economics has guarded her against domestic abuse and neglect.

The narrative has changed, as Naadi and her cohorts’ struggle for inclusion has become a reality.

The POWER project has powered them by reducing the poverty level to a minimum level where they are able to finance the education of their girls.

She says women are bold to speak against the injustices, break barriers to eliminate child marriage and they are consulted in decision-making and this confirms that assertion that economic freedom and ending violence against women and girls are interdependent.

Clearly, the achievement of the POWER project could be used as a model to end violence against women and girls, because given them equitable access to resources and space to participate in economic, social and political development at various levels.

The writer is a Documentation, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at ActionAid Ghana