Sierra Leone: Child Marriage Perpetuates the Cycle of Poverty

By Joseph S. Margai

A study conducted by the National Commission for Children (NCC) between May-August, 2015 has revealed that child marriage in Sierra Leone is a contributory factor to perennial poverty.

The study also reveals that communities and chiefdoms in the Western Rural Area, Koinadugu, Pujehun and Kono districts are underdeveloped, which is a symbol of poverty caused by child marriage.

According to chairperson of the National Commission for Children, Mrs. Olayinka Laggah, women who got married at an early age are deprived of their right to education, adding that they are also not allowed to grow and realise their full potential.

She, however, contended that poverty was not the sole reason for parents giving their girls into marriage as there are other parents who though poor, ensure their children complete school and do not rush them into marriage.

"Also, the children's attitude towards life and material wants is seen as a contributing factor to the practice of child marriage. Ending this practice is strongly dependent on joint collaboration, with specific emphasis on the attitude of parents and the children themselves," she said.

The NCC study also disclosed that other factors influencing the practice of child marriage are teenage pregnancy and weak educational facilities in districts.

"Long distances to schools, especially at secondary level, and low quality of teaching offered in schools in the chiefdoms cause girls to move away from their parents in pursuance of better educational opportunities," the study revealed. It furthered that this exposes girls to sexual abuse and exploitation as most of the girls are engaged to the men that impregnated them.

Mrs. Laggah maintained that said parental support and guidance are minimal in most homes as some parents concentrate more on their sources of income and value their sources of livelihood much more than their children.

"Parents shift the responsibility of their children to men in better financial positions who show interest in their daughters. This is a common feature in all the districts that this study covers," she said.

The NCC chairperson stated that the ineffectiveness of laws against child marriage was linked to the reasons for impunity, adding that the process of ensuring justice for victims is slow, while the capacity of law enforcement officers to respond to child marriage is low.

"There are significant misconceptions and ignorance of the laws against child marriage. This coupled with the inconsistencies in the laws against child marriage leads to compromise and thus the prevalence of child marriage in the Sierra Leonean society," she noted.

Meanwhile, she recommended that there should be strong advocacy for an improvement in educational services and opportunities in the regions.

"We should encourage the promotion of the Child Rights Act of 2007, the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 and other related human rights legislations with emphasis on the responsibilities of parents and children through community-based interventions and media programmes," she concluded.

Source All Africa

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