Save the Children holds high level dissemination meeting on early early child marriage Studies
High level dissemination meeting participants at the International Conference Centre, Freetown including Ministries of Health, Justice and Gender and Children’s Affairs with Donors, Adolescents and CSO partners. Photo: Save the Children
‘Our children are precious gifts and should be considered as asset, not as liabilities to the nation’ Statement from the Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs
On Thursday 29 July, Save the Children held a high-level meeting to share findings from studies on early child marriage. Supported by the Government of Canada, the Child Early Forced Marriage project met with stakeholders from Ministries of Health, Justice and Gender and Children’s Affairs alongside donors, civils society organizations and adolescent champions in Freetown.
Key findings showed that although official marriages were on the decline, customary marriages continued and “Tap to Me” where a pregnant girl moves in with the family, man or boy responsible until she gives birth now common place, sidetracking the constitutional age of marriage at 18 years.
Studies showed that 33.1 per cent of families in Sierra Leone have at least one daughter that is married under the age of 18, and at least 1 pregnant adolescent/mother in every 2 households. These girls are likely to miss out on opportunities for education and access to sexual reproductive health services because of financial barriers and lack of power to make decisions on their lives.
Response to findings
Civil society called on Government to prioritize the introduction of sexual education and rights in schools to improve adolescents’ knowledge on teenage pregnancy and early marriage.
The Ministry of Health through National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy assured their commitment and drive towards addressing teenage pregnancy and child marriage while Ministry of Justice affirmed that there has been progress made in strengthening the legislative and policy framework. Legal Aid Board agreed there should be no compromise of the law, calling on civil society to collaborate and ensure strict measures are put in place to end SGBV.
The Child Early and Forced Marriage project also known as “My Body, My Decision, My Rights”, aims to reduce CEFM, enable girls to make decisions on their own future and fulfil their rights by addressing the underlying conditions which maintain gender inequality. It creates opportunities for access to education and economic empowerment.
This meeting showed the need for continued advocacy to end child marriage in Sierra Leone to which Save the Children remains committed because every child has the right to health, education, protection and equal participation.