The Nation’s Future: Ending Child Marriage

A blog by Paula Freschi Kamena (Ret.) Marin County District Attorney and Soroptimist of Marin County

“The Nation’s Future: Ending Child Marriage, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the United Nations and Zonta International

Leslie Wright, Moderator
Zonta International United Nations Committee Chair
H.E, Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee – Opening Remarks
Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative, Mission of Ghana to the UN
Anne-Marie French Cudjoe – Opening Remarks
District 18 Governor, Zonta International

Panelists:

Dr. Kojo Appiah-Kubi, MP, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Gender – Ghana
Quentin Wodon, Lead Economist, World Bank (by phone)
Linda Witong, International Research Consultant, SI Advocacy Advisor and member of Soroptimist International

H.E, Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee is the first woman ambassador from Ghana. In September 2017, the President of Ghana attended a festival in Central Park and made a statement to end child marriage. Ghana is at the forefront of ending this practice. Child Marriage exists worldwide. In developing countries, 30% of girls are married before they are 18. While it is a local issue, it is related to the global issue of lack of opportunity. Rural girls are the most vulnerable. It cuts their lives short and imposes duties they are too young to have: sex, having children, taking care of an older husband and his family, to name a few. Child Marriage is aggravated by war. Mental health issues arise from child marriage. Education delays marriage and childbearing.

Anne-Marie French Cudjoe spoke of the work of Zonta International, a global organization that consists of local professional women whose goal is to empower women through service and advocacy. There are 29,000 members in 66 countries. Women’s rights are human rights. We must lift women out of poverty and to do so we must end inequality, female genital mutilation, and marriage. Zonta has two projects each in the value of over $1,000,000: one to end Child Marriage and the other to work against human trafficking.

Leslie Wright: Twenty-four states in the USA do not have a minimum age for marriage.

Dr. Kojo Appiah-Kubi: Child marriage cuts across all countries and cultures. Worldwide, 12 million girls are married before age 18. In Ghana, it is legal for girls to marry at 18 and they may at 16 with the consent of their parents. Twenty-one percent are married before age 18. The Ghana government deals with child marriage in their constitution and in the Children’s Act that prohibits marriage before age 18. It is a criminal law against child marriage. The government has increased its advocacy against child marriage. Girls get free education and are doing well for going to college.

Quentin Wodon: Due to the storm, Mr. Wodon participated by telephone. World Bank has done an in-depth research project on the economic effect of Child Marriage. I did not quite get all the slides down, but the entire point was this: in their research, they were measuring the economic issue of child marriage and early childbirth as opposed to the social issue. The research was conducted in June 2017. Early child death, related to the youth of the mother, were related to labour, education, and population as well as welfare laws. Reducing Child Marriage would save $600 billion by 2030. Increasing child health would save $82 billion by 2030. These are related to increasing the labour pool and reducing welfare costs (very simplistic summary). Preventing Child Marriage will increase income and the economy. The answer is to keep girls in school.

Linda Witong: Ms. Witong gave legal arguments to end Child Marriage for delegates to CSW to use in lobbying their missions. Cites will be provided upon request. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur’s report stated that Child Marriage is torture. Female Genital Mutilation is an act of war and a crime against humanity. In 2016 and 2017 the UN passed general resolutions that declared Child Marriage to be harmful and a practice that violates human rights. The UN Secretary-General has stated that Child Marriage is a barrier to girls’ rights to quality education and must end. The Human Rights Council has declared that Child Marriage is a harmful practice that impairs human rights and encourages all states to prevent this practice”.

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