Six school girls from communities in the Northern Region who were given out for marriage when schools were closed down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have been rescued.
The girls, aged between 13 and 15, were given out in marriage by their parents for financial gains.
They were rescued by the Pan African Organisation for Research and Protection of Violence on Women and Children (PAORP-VWC), a non-governmental organisation based in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital.
The six girls have been handed over to the Social Welfare Department in the respective districts, while efforts are underway to rescue about 20 more of such girls who have been forced into marriage in the region as well as the North East Region.
He indicated that since the outbreak of the pandemic there had been many reports of forced marriages in rural communities in the region.
“Some parents think that the schools will not be re-opened anytime soon and taking care of the children is an extra burden, so giving them out for marriage will bring them some relief.
“Others also see their teenage girls as a source of revenue to the family,” he added.
He explained that upon receiving information on the girls, the NGO went to the communities to interact with the families and the chiefs, following which the girls were rescued.
He said his outfit was currently embarking on community engagements in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department of the respective assemblies to sensitise the chiefs and residents to the effects of forced and early marriages.
“We have about 41 communities in some of the districts which are reporting some of these incidents to us. We have resourced them to go round the villages and report such incidents to us or the police and Social Welfare so that the victims can be rescued,” he said.
North East Region
Checks by the Daily Graphic revealed that the act was going on in some communities in parts of the North East Region as some parents are of the belief that schools which have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic would not be reopened now, so giving the teenage girls out for marriage will be beneficial.
Parents indicated that they gave out their girls in return for cash, while others married off their daughters so that their husbands would support them on their farms.
An opinion leader in the West Mamprusi Municipality who pleaded anonymity in a telephone interview indicated that “the schools’ closure led some parents in my community to force their girls into marriage which is very disturbing , and that authorities need to look into the matter.”
The workshop which was organised by the PAORP-VWC for selected journalists in the Northern Region was to discuss and design strategies to enhance effective media engagement in the promotion of laws and policies protecting the rights of children in the area.
Dr Ndonwie called on journalists to show much interest in reporting on children and women so as to fight for their rights, stating that “the media are those with the voice that get to the remote areas where vehicles cannot reach so we are urging you to collaborate with us to fight for the rights of women and children in those areas.”