Oct 18, 2016, 10:20 AM
This was brought to fore during the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, 2015 by The Girls’ Agenda on Friday.
The Gambia cannot be said to be holistically developing if that important segment of the society is said to be not fully protected.
One of the main reasons the country is lagging is the high prevalence of child marriage and its attendant complications on the girl-bride.
Data from the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey show that 16 per cent of women aged 20-49 years married before their 15th birthday and 41 per cent of women of the same age group got married by age 18.This figure is high compared to the average for developing countries.
It is a known fact that child marriage is often instigated by issues like poverty, lack of education, gender stereotyping, discrimination and negative cultural practices, and denying girls the right to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Therefore, the best approach to tackle the issue is through addressing the root causes in order to break the cycle.
The government has propounded several rights education policies and programmes in favour of the education of the girl-child, but there is a need for more in different areas.
More avenues for employment creation should be opened, because you don’t want to go though the rudiments of education only to find yourself sitting at home.
In addition, there is a need for stronger collaboration at different levels, as well as to harness the leadership of community and religious leaders to change their attitude towards child marriage.
The protection of children from abuse and exploitation can be effective if communities recognise the problem and actively participate in the protection.
Community members need to understand that protecting children rests squarely on the shoulders of families and communities.
But also advocating for more explicit legal provisions should be given focus.There is a need to tighten our laws to ban child marriage by making a clear provision in the Children’s Act with much more definitive clauses by making child marriage illegal and void from start.
The issue of child marriage requires a multifaceted approach, and the government and its development partners and other non-state actors need to do more to decently accommodate the girl-child in the growth of The Gambia.
“Educating girls is one of the surest ways to prevent child marriage.”