Child marriage in Ghana

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Child marriage in Ghana


Anna Scott speaks to Ghanaian activist Abiba Nibaradun about why she decided to stop the forced marriage of girls.

Abiba Nibaradun was only three years old when she lost her mother. A distant relative raised her in the Upper West region of Ghana and she finally completed her first degree aged 26.

Something changed for Nibaradun when she began working in education and for NGOs.

She saw that in groups women almost never spoke, even when decisions would impact them directly. But when she met them individually, these same women talked to her. They told her how they were forced to marry at a young age and about their experiences of violence from their partners.

These stories made Nibaradun want to change forced marriage.

For 10 years, Nibaradun worked for international charity ActionAid and she leads a team of 68 action teams in the community across Ghana. The teams have about 10 people of all genders. They go out into their community and talk about girls’ rights to choose if, when, and who they marry.

The law in Ghana does not allow marriage under the age of 18. There is less child marriage now but one in five women now aged 20-24 were married under-age.

What are some of the reasons for child marriage in Ghana?

There are many causes but an important reason in many areas is poverty. With little money, parents can find it difficult to care for many children and they might see no reason to spend money to raise a girl if it means neglecting a boy.

In a way, people see a girl child as already somebody else’s family member. People accept that she will grow up to marry a man. When this happens, she will carry away her parent’s care and investment, but a boy will remain with the family.

It is not like this in every family, but some see it this way, especially in rural areas with little education.

What are some of the possible consequences for women married as children?

In Ghana, a girl does not enter an under-age marriage and hope to finish her education. It is more likely she will have children when she is very young. As the girl cannot earn money, the family will find it difficult to raise a big family on one income. So, poverty continues into the next generation and child marriage will continue.

I also saw through my work that the women married at a very young age are more likely to suffer abuse than women married as adults.

While working for ActionAid, you have stopped more than 200 child marriages. How do you do it?

I often visit schools so I have regular contact with children. During these visits, I encourage children and young women to join our support groups. First, younger girls can join our Empowerment and Advocacy Platform or, when in high school, our Young Female Platform. Even after finishing school, girls are not alone – they can join the Young Urban Women’s Movement.

I give my phone number to the girls in these groups. I say that they can call me and talk about their problems. From time to time, I will get a phone call and find that there is a possibility that some girls will marry at a young age. I try to help them and give them information about training. Then they can get money to learn various skills. Then girls can choose further education and not an early marriage. Some of them listen.

I do not work alone. We have teams in about 65 communities across Ghana’s Upper West Region. They try to stop girls getting married without losing support from their families.

If a girl is abducted, the family of her possible husband will likely force her to live with them. Then the team sends a letter asking for the girl to return to her own family in a fixed time. If they do not return the girl, one of the team will follow up. If nothing happens, we report it to the police.

How did you feel the first time you stopped a forced child marriage? When I got back home, I felt so happy and satisfied. I really wanted to be sure that this girl would not lose her future and her dreams. I love the wI love the work I do,so when a girl tells me that she could be married, I do everything to make sure she comes back to her family.

I don’t always go to her directly – I also work with the teams or contact the state institution. But when a rescue is successful and I meet the girl, I feel really happy. Then I want to help girls even more to stay in school and not have an early marriage.

If you think about a better world for women and girls, what do you see?

I see a world free of violence and injustice. I have seen many times that women are not valued, they are not respected. I want to see women and girls make decisions about their lives for themselves free from interference from men.

In Ghana, I want to encourage women to report cases of partner violence and I would like to see male community members do better with these problems.

Marriage should not stop a woman from getting what she wants for her life. This is how I wish society will be for women and girls.


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)