Minister, Religious and Traditional Leaders commit to Ending Child Marriage in Sierra Leone
Top-Bottom: High Table: Irish Aid, Save the Children, Minister of Gender and Children's Affairs, Inter-religuous Council and Paramount Chief Kailahun
Middle and final photo: Heather Campbell, Country Director, Save the Children and Manty Tarawallie, Minister of Gender and Children's Affairs on ending child marriage in Sierra Leone at meeting in Kenema, 26 November 2021. Photo credit; Abdul Sillah, Save the Children
On the 26th November 2021, the Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manty Tarawallie; Paramount Chiefs and the Executive members of Inter Religious Council met to outline, examine and set measures to tackle the causes and harmful effects of child marriage in Sierra Leone.
The one-day meeting organised by Save the Children was held in Kenema City and kicked off the campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence on women and girls.
With Sierra Leone having the 19th highest child marriage rate in the world, where 13% of girls are married by age 15, and 39% by 18 years of age, the meeting had 20 Inter Religious Council Leaders and 12 traditional leaders and paramount chiefs from Pujehun, Kailahun and Kenema districts commit to fighting to end child marriage together.
Save the Children Country Director, Heather Campbell opened with a short statement expressing her joy in seeing transformation in the lives of child brides as a result of the organisation’s protection intervention. She said that some girls had lost their self-esteem until Save the Children gave them the support needed to rebuild their lives and a platform to showcase their worth and potential. She encouraged every stakeholder present not just to talk, but to act to end child marriage, so that girls can be empowered to contribute meaningfully through education and economic empowerment.
In the panel discussion led by a girl champion and child marriage survivor, a paramount chief, religious leader, Irish Aid and civil society representatives spoke to the challenges in addressing this scourge and identified ways in which they could work together to address it.
Minister Tarwallie delivered the keynote address where she assured that the government was committed to ending child marriage in the country.
“This is one of the most important things in the president’s agenda. Right now, we are preparing laws. We are putting things together that will help to end child marriage. But we cannot do it alone.” She said. “It is timely that Save the Children as a partner held this meeting with paramount chiefs and religious leaders who are very important in this work.”
At the end of the meeting Minister, partners, paramount chiefs and religious leaders signed a pledge condemning all cultural and traditional practices that are harmful to girls and committed to speaking out against gender-based violence especially child marriage, enforcing laws, supporting victims and promoting girls’ education at home, in communities and nationally to end child marriage in Sierra Leone.
They recommended further deliberations to plan these actions as a way forward.