OPINION: Prioritize your children's education and say no to early child marriage
Early child marriage, also known as child marriage, is a practice that involves marrying off children before they reach the legal age of marriage.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18.
The practice is prevalent in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, and it is a violation of children's human rights.
Despite the efforts made by governments and various organizations to end child marriage, it continues to be a common practice in many parts of the world.
There are several reasons why people still engage in this practice, including cultural and religious beliefs, poverty, lack of education, and gender inequality.
For instance, in some communities, marrying off girls at a young age is seen as a way of protecting them from premarital sex and preserving their purity.
In other cases, parents may marry off their children as a means of securing financial stability or reducing the burden of caring for them.
The negative effects of early child marriage are numerous and can be devastating.
Young girls who are married off at an early age are often forced to drop out of school and are at risk of experiencing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
They are also more likely to experience complications during childbirth, leading to health problems and even death.
Additionally, child marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty, as girls who are married off at a young age are less likely to complete their education and are more likely to have limited economic opportunities.
To curb the practice of early child marriage, there is a need for a coordinated and sustained effort from governments, civil society organizations, and individuals.
This effort should involve awareness-raising campaigns that emphasize the importance of education, gender equality, and the human rights of children.
It should also involve providing economic support to families to help them meet their basic needs and incentives to keep girls in school.
Parents who allow their children to go into early child marriage should be advised to prioritize their children's education and delay marriage until their children are of legal age.
They should be educated on the negative effects of child marriage on their children's health, education, and future prospects.
Parents should also be encouraged to seek support from their communities and the government to provide alternative economic opportunities to support their families.
For children who may be at risk of being married off at a young age, they should be empowered with knowledge of their rights and encouraged to speak up when they feel their rights are being violated.
They should also be provided with safe spaces where they can seek support and protection.
In conclusion, early child marriage is a violation of children's rights and has numerous negative effects on their health, education, and future prospects.
The practice persists due to a variety of reasons, including cultural and religious beliefs, poverty, and gender inequality.
However, concerted efforts from various stakeholders can help curb the practice and protect children's rights.
It is important for parents and communities to prioritize education and gender equality, and for children to be empowered with knowledge of their rights and provided with safe spaces to seek support and protection.
Credit: Edmund Jacob Hoffman, Immediate Past President, AYPA, St. Andrews Anglican Church, Abossey Okai.
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