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Addressing early marriage for girls

Plan International Sierra Leone is working alongside Defense for Children International to combat child marriage in the country.

Child marriage
Child marriage is prevalent in Moyamba, Sierra Leone.

Plan International Sierra Leone is leading the way in increasing child protection in the country, and our child protection programme continues to strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms and national child protection systems. We are promoting child and youth participation in child protection to protect children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence, including during emergencies.

One of our programmes has supported the Sierra Leone government to establish a child welfare committee in each of the 2 chiefdoms in Moyamba to help reduce the crime rate. 

Children’s groups comprising of children in schools and local communities have been formed in all 3 chiefdoms. Each group has 30 children – 15 girls and 15 boys. The members of these groups are trained to conduct peer to peer education in schools and communities on child protection and child rights issues, and regularly raise awareness in communities about their rights, roles and responsibilities.

Sixteen-year old Aminata lives in Moyamba district in the Southern Region in Sierra Leone with her parents and eight siblings. She is the second child. The youngest is a boy of 2 years old.

In Moyamba district, child abuse cases due to extreme poverty are common.

“My parents are poor farmers. I am always beaten and driven away for school fees,” said Aminata.

Aminata herself had a narrow escape 4 years ago when she was about to be forced into early marriage to a 40 year-old man who is old enough to be her father. The man had already been married 3 times and has 2 children.

“The man offered to pay for my education,” said Aminata. “One night, my parents called a family meeting saying they can no longer afford to pay my school fees so I should get married. Little did I know that all preparations for my marriage had been arranged. I couldn’t believe it.

“This led me to be traumatised for the whole week. I wept and could no longer concentrate in school. I reported the matter to Aunty Komah who works for Defense for Children International to help convince my parents not to give my hand in marriage, but they were adamant.”

Just before the marriage ceremony, Defense for Children International, one of Plan International Sierra Leone’s implementing partners in the district, interrupted and stopped the wedding ceremony. They issued Aminata’s parents with a letter of warning.

“I was so happy that I narrowly escaped early marriage,” said Aminata.

“The most common form of abuse in Moyamba district includes early marriage, teenage pregnancy, teenager to teenager abuse, forceful initiation, beating and maltreatment of children, and child labour,” said Paul Ngegba, Social Development Officer of Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.

“Over 50% of child abuse cases are common in Moyamba district,” added Esther, a teacher at the St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Moyamba.