GoActiveForGirls

by Hats Community Empowerment Programme (HACEP-Ghana)
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
GoActiveForGirls
Sarah  in Class
Sarah in Class

During the first quarter of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, HACEP-Ghana Child marriage rescue committee held a community conversation at Dufaa a suburb of Tamale about eliminating gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices that stifle girls, women and young peoples’ voices and denying them education and their ability to realize their full potentials to combat and break the poverty chain in their communities that traps girls and women in a vicious cycle of child marriages. Sara, a brilliant but needy 13 year-old junior high school graduate awaiting her results to pursue secondary to tertiary education with an extraordinary passion in the aviation industry and a dream of becoming the first female pilot in Northern Ghana as a first generation of educated person on both her paternal and maternal extended family has just been married off to a 55 year old man through centuries old traditional/cultural practice deeply rooted in the Dagomba tribes in northern Ghana.

This harmful cultural/traditional practice allow any capable young man

Through series of meetings and dialogue with the chiefs and elders of the community, HACEP-Ghana moved quickly to rescue Sara to go back to complete her Education through our Financial Education Initiative (FEI) component of Protect 50,000 Girls from Child Marriage in Ghana which has consistently offered an opportunity to increase both the financial capability of girls and the awareness of their reproductive health, social and economic rights for over 5 years now.

The FEI provides relevant and timely financial education to girls and young women at key points in their lives, as part of a program to support girls with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to tackle decisions along their life's journey, whether this is personal, professional or in continuing education.

We know that access to financial and social assets is essential to helping girls make their own economic decisions, escape child, early and forced marriage that traps girls in a vicious cycle of poverty.

We also know that ending child, early, and forced marriage can unleash the full potentials of girls to not only survive but thrive in the face of difficulties they face in access to education and reproductive health care in northern Ghana.

Today Sarah is back to school to realize her dream, without your generous donation this will not have been possible. Thanks for been part of the solution to end child marriage in Northern Ghana.

Not until our project is fully funded, we are going to need your support in reaching out to like-minded change makers like you to support us by donating to our project. We are now part of a team of change makers committed to empowering girls and young women to achieve their full potentials thereby promoting gender equality which will ultimately contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically SDG 5.

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Dear Donors,

You are invited to mark this monumental day with us. Today we celebrate women’s achievements from around the world and commit to making changes for girls and women that will bring about a more just and gender equal world.   

Our new vision statement is of an “equal world where all girls can thrive”.  Imagine for a second, what that world would be like. 

Girls and Young Women have long been eclipsed from leadership positions and opportunities. With your help HACEP-Ghana has been working to provide these opportunities and support girls and young women to become the leaders they deserve to be. Give a girl and a young woman a place at community, local, national and international level leadership training to empower them to participate in society and in decision making and ultimately achieve the full potentials: 

The Girls’ Leadership Seminar (GLS) was created to give girls this opportunity, past participants include Doctor Sherifatu Musah (Founder and Executive Director at AID4Girls and Women Deliver Young Leader, 2016 Cohort). Much of Sherifatus’ success in life, she credits to her journey with Girls’ Leadership Seminar and experience attending the GLS Seminar in 2020. Her experience resulted in a career in politics: 

Sherifatus’ story is phenomenal, and she is not alone. Thousands of girls and young women in Ghana have been able to attend The Girls’ Leadership Training Seminar thanks to the donations of supporters like you.  

You play a key role in changing our world. Girl Leadership Seminar continues to break bias throughout Ghana by teaching girls and young women these skills and teaching them to value themselves.  

Young women still need this opportunity today. As our world becomes more polarised, a leadership seminar where difference is celebrated not criticised is essential. You can be part of forging a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.   

                                                  Give Girls in Ghana the chance to lead.  

                                                                         Donate Today

You can read more stories of inspirational women that have attended the Girls’’ Leadership Seminar and have paved the way to breaking the bias, on our website:  

                                                               Women breaking the bias 

                                                       Girls’ Leadership Seminar Stories 

It is your chance to sign up to our special End Child Marriage Online Event taking place from 8th March, 2022 to 11th March, 2022 at 5:00pm each day starting today to  comemorate the celebration of the International Womens Day 2022.

We will be joined by girls and young women from around the globe who are breaking the bias through their leadership. Hear their stories and how you can support their journey. 

                                                                  Sign up to the event

 

Thank you for choosing to create a world free of bias, 

Yours in Ghana Girls’ Leadership Seminar 

Ms. Sherifatu Musah Ph.D

Chair of the Girls’ Leadership Seminar Board 

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Ida Sharing her Story
Ida Sharing her Story

Girls in Northern Ghana want more rights; they want to stay in school; and they want the freedom to marry older. But where do you begin when you learn that your only role in life is to become someone’s wife? That you have to stop going to school as soon as you get married? Ida (17) learned the hard way that getting married young is not a good idea.

 Her Journey

Darkness had fallen and outside a cacophony of geckos, crickets and frogs was clearly audible as Ida used her fingers to feel her way along the mud wall of her home. She stole away silently on tiptoes, because she didn’t want her parents to notice she was gone. Ida’s prospective husband was already waiting outside, his presence betrayed by the light of the silvery moon. He shuffled restlessly and grinned at her. She put on her slippers and shot one last glance at her childhood home, as she took his hand and walked into the darkness. Towards life as a married girl.

This ritual, called Nyug-Maabu (Betrothal at Birth), in which the bridegroom “kidnaps” his bride-to-be from her childhood home at night, is an ancient tradition among the Dagombas’ in Northern Ghana. However, it is also seen as problematic if the couple are still very young, despite the fact that the parents often approve of such a marriage.

It was later the same evening that Ida’s father, Joshua (45) noticed that his daughter was gone. Her room was empty. Just a few months earlier, during a village meeting of the HACEP-Ghana’s Protect 5,000 Girls from Child Marriage Programme Community Conversations on Child Marriage Joshua had learned of the dangers of child marriages. Now, he quickly realised that his daughter had probably been “kidnapped” and was about to get married. The next morning Joshua rushed to report to the local chief and the Children’s Rights Committee that, in accordance with the Dagomba ritual, his daughter had been “kidnapped”. “But she cannot possibly get married,” he pleaded, “she’s only 17 and she has to finish school!”

MyBody MyChoice Alliance

Local networks have been set up in three places in Northern Ghana under the name SheDecides. These networks, or committees, are a result of the collaboration between HACEP-Ghana and various organisations in Northern Ghana and the MyBody MyChoice Alliance. The objective is to protect girls and youngsters and inform them about their rights, their bodies and the choices they can make in their lives.

The MyBody MyChoice Alliance started up in 2016 and comprises Plan International Nederland, Amref Flying Doctors, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, KIT Royal Tropical Institute, Rutgers and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In six countries the MyBody MyChoice Alliance is jointly tackling issues underlying girls’ circumcision, child marriages and teenage pregnancies by amongst other teaching young people about sexuality and their rights and by providing economic opportunities to girls and young women.

Control Over A Girl’s Body

In Northern Ghana, as soon as a girl gets married, she often has to stop school and her husband takes control. More often than not, she becomes the (too-)young mother of a child born into a new generation, destined to grow up in poverty. Alongside poverty, the taboo associated with premarital sex is a major driver of the high number of child marriages in Northern Ghana. It is known there as zina, which means illicit sex, or fornication. A sexual relationship endorsed by a wedding ring, however, is permitted (even if the couple themselves are still children).

Ida’s mother also married young, as did her grandmother and her great-grandmother. Neither of them had reached the age of 18. And that is also the fate of one in nine girls in Northern Ghana. Time might seem to stand still in Ida’s village, surrounded as it is by lush green hills and picturesque waterfalls. But behind the façade – just like on other regions in Ghana – a bitter struggle ensues over a woman’s body.

From A Girl To Someone’s Wife

In Northern Ghana, more than 11 per cent of girls marry before they are 18. According to UNICEF, the country is eighth in the list of countries with the highest number of child brides (India heads this list). Data has shown that while little has changed for 17- and 18-year-old girls, fewer and fewer girls are getting married before the age of 16. In 2019, the age at which girls are legally allowed to marry with parental consent was increased from 16 to 19. But parents can still apply for “dispensation” and receive legal permission for a child marriage.

Girls pay a high price

Mr Ibrahim, who heads the Children’s Rights Committee in Ida’s village, insists that child marriages give him a headache. “Young boys are wholly incapable of supporting a girl financially. It leads to many divorces. And while divorce itself might be cheap, the girls pay a high price. They are written off as second-hand and end up as spinsters. The stigma is huge.”

When talking to parents (such as Ida’s father), villagers and religious leaders, Mr Ibrahim also cites the medical argument against child marriages. “I explain to them that young girls’ bodies are not sufficiently developed and they are therefore exposed to the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. That’s why it’s better for them to wait a while before getting married!”

First School, Then Marriage

Thanks in part to what Mr Ibrahim had told him, for Ida’s father it was now as clear as day: his daughter must finish school before getting married. When the concerned father had arrived on Mr Ibrahim’s doorstep that morning, following his daughter’s “kidnapping,” he demanded that the proposed marriage be cancelled. This is only possible through a special process called “Asadachi Labsibu”, a practice recently introduced byHACEP-Ghana and local authorities. The objective is to dissolve a marriage through a ritual that fits with the ancient traditions of Dagbon.

Ida admits that she was sad at first, and somewhat ashamed. But now she is so glad that she can go back to school, and she realises that it’s better for her not to get married yet. “I hardly knew him anyway; he had just said a few sweet things to me.” Today she’s wearing a T-shirt with a Superman emblem and proudly riding the red moped given to her by her father because she promised she won’t get married for the time being.

Asked whether she has any advice for other girls, Ida says: “Don’t get married if you are too young, because you will not yet be able to support yourself and your family!” And what about the young man that almost became her husband? “Well, I forgot about that after just four days!” Rather than become a housewife, Ida now wants to become an immigration officer. Just like her role model, her older sister.

This could not have bee possible without your tremendous support and donations, now Ida will finish secondary school and go on to get her tertiary education, get a job or set up her own business and employ other girls from low-income families, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty that traps girls in child, early and forced marriages in Northern Ghana.

Your Donations are Changing the Lives of Girls and preparing them to achieve their full potentials. It never ceases to amaze us that such a simple, yet direct solution like keeping girls in school beyond Secondary Education improves so much for girls and their families.

Until we are fully funded, there is still more work to be done and your being part of the solution to end Child Marriage in Ghana is remarkably amazing. Do share our project with family and friends so that one day when we look back at these amazing times, we can all say we did it, we can say we were part of history and God’s willing our grand children’s children will reap the benefits of the seeds we are sowing right now.

Thank you for being an important part of the Solution to End Child Marriage in Ghana

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Hassana, Mary, and Gloria (whose names have been changed to protect their identity), all from rural Dalung in the Kumbungu District of Northern Ghana, shared their stories with HACEP-Ghana (Protect 5,000 Girls from Child Marriage in Ghana) to give a better understanding of how girls who live in extreme poverty become child brides. They each hope to protect other girls from having to go through what they have experienced.

Hassana’s Story

With support from HACEP-Ghana, and the encouragement of the young women alumnae in its Girls Speak network, Hassana is now returning to school and hopeful that she can achieve her goal of becoming a doctor.

Hassana’s parents would spend every day on the river, hoping to catch enough fish to sell so that they could afford to send their children to school and buy food for them. If they didn’t have a lucky day, however, Hassana and her younger brothers and sisters would go to sleep hungry. When her father died, life got even harder for the family. It was up to Hassana’s mother to provide for herself and her 10 young children. “I was supposed to be in school at the time I got married,” Hassana, now 17, told HACEP-Ghana.

“I was 12 years old when I got married to a 35 year old man. They said that the man would take care of me, my siblings, and my mother, due to the poverty levels.” “I cried because I was too young to get married,” she continued. “I didn’t want to, I didn’t understand the meaning of marriage, I was filled with fear." But Hassana knew that her mother couldn’t afford to feed her, buy clothes for her, or pay her school fees, and she felt that if she refused to get married, she wouldn’t have anywhere else to go. However, rather than paying the significant dowry that Hassana’s family had hoped for, that her mother could use to support the family, Hassana’s new husband gave her family a single goat. In her new role as a wife, Hassana stopped going to school, and instead took care of her husband, and searched for small jobs she could do to earn some money. She and her husband struggled to earn enough to eat. But the greatest loss, for Hassana, was her freedom. “When I was staying with mum, I was free to do what I wanted to do,” she continued. “Now in the house I was taken to, I wasn’t free. I was scared because he refused for me to do anything, and only he decided what should be done.”

As a child bride, Hassana also endured the terror and pain of an unwanted physical relationship. After six months, she discovered she was pregnant. “When I was pregnant, I felt so much pain because I wasn’t ready to conceive at that age,” she said. “I had no knowledge of how to deliver a baby.” When she was still pregnant, Hassana’s husband died. After the funeral, his brother and successor to his land and property, married Hassana. In her second marriage, she was often subjected to domestic violence, and she lost her baby. Under threat and oppressed, she felt unable to even seek help following her miscarriage. Years passed, until Hassana eventually became pregnant again. She was still pregnant when her second husband also died and Hassana, still only a child herself, was left alone to give birth. “If my child could get an education, his life would be different from mine,” she said. “When children are kept in school, they get educated and they reap the benefits. I would like to tell others that when you get married at an early age, things are difficult and you lose all your rights and you suffer a lot.”

Mary’s Story

Doreen looks forward to returning to school with HACEP-Ghana’s support and becoming a teacher. She wants to contribute to the development of Northern Ghana.

Mary is the oldest of five children. She was just 7 years old when her mother died and, not long after, her father was killed. Suddenly orphans, Mary and her four young siblings had to leave the place where they grew up, and move in with their grandmother in a village nearby. Her grandmother struggled to look after all the children, until finally she feared they couldn’t survive like that for much longer. She felt she had no choice but to arrange a marriage for Mary. “I was 13 when I got married,” Mary, now 14, told HACEP-Ghana. “My husband was 30 years old. It was because of poverty.” “When I asked [my grandmother] about school, she said the same man who will marry you will take you to school,” she continued. But when I got married, I stopped there and then. I could not continue to go to school because I was supposed to take care of my husband.” But, as well as having new responsibilities as a wife, Mary also discovered she was pregnant soon after getting married. “I was hurt when I discovered I was pregnant. I was too young," she said. "I used to think that my life would change for the better when I got married, but even the dream that I had that I would take care of my younger brothers and sisters turned out to be a myth.”

Her pregnancy was another obstacle between Mary and her education. Her classmates pointed and laughed at her, and the embarrassment became too much for her. Instead of getting an education, Mary spent her days sweeping, washing clothes, washing dishes, collecting cassava, collecting firewood, working in neighbouring fields, and cooking for her husband in the evenings. At 13, far too young to know about childbirth, or how to take care of a baby, Mary went into a terrifying and painful labour, which resulted in an emergency Caesarean section. “I’m just a child," she said. "I’m just the way you see me. And I wouldn’t like anyone who is 14 to go through what I have been through.”

Gloria’s Story

Gloria is now looking forward to getting support from HACEP-Ghana and its Girls Speak alumnae to get the skills she needs to start a business and educate her son.

Gloria’s mother and father both passed away in quick succession, leaving Gloria and her five younger brothers and sisters to move in with their eldest sibling, in an impoverished fishing community. She didn’t want to get married because she was so young, but, when a man approached the family seeking to marry Gloria, she accepted because her older sibling couldn’t look after all the children. If Gloria were to refuse, she would have been forced to leave home, as her family members were unable to take care of her. With nowhere else to go and no way to support herself, she accepted. She was just 14 years old. “I hoped life would improve, and that I would help to take care of my young siblings,”

Gloria, now 15, told HACEP-Ghana. But Gloria and her husband had no source of income, they struggled to provide for themselves let alone support Gloria’s younger siblings. Her husband rarely worked, and she spent her days sweeping, cooking, and cleaning dishes. And when Gloria was 5 months pregnant, her husband left and never came back. Terrified, alone, and preparing to raise a child while still a child herself, Gloria didn’t know how she was going to manage. She didn’t know anything about pregnancy or childbirth, all she knew is that she was far too young to be having a baby. “Even after I had a child he is nowhere to be seen,” she continued. “I was not yet at the age of becoming a mother.” When the time came, Gloria’s sister helped her to deliver a healthy baby. But she was reliant on other people’s help to provide the things she and her baby needed to survive. “If my mother was still alive, I would have been in school,” Gloria added. “She used to tell me to take care of kids who were in school and that next year I will also start school. If I were in school now, my life would have been different.

I may have been employed as a teacher.” All three of these girls, Doreen, Mary, and Gloria, as well as their children, are now being supported by HACEP-Ghana’s Protect 5,000 Girls from Child Marriage in Ghana so that they can return to school and continue their education. Hassana is looking forward to being educated just like her friends. Mary is going to undergo training to get the skills and psychological support she needs to start a business, so she can be financially independent. She is looking forward to being able to provide for her son, and to put him through school. She hopes that he might want to become a teacher one day. Gloria is hopeful that she can achieve her goal of becoming a doctor.

There are no female doctors in her district, particularly women doctors, and Gloria wants to be the one to change that. She is determined to send her children to school, so she will never be forced to make the same terrible decisions as her mother. These girls’ futures are looking brighter. But, “for every girl whose story is told, and whose voice is heard, there are millions waiting for the world to listen.”

HACEP-Ghana works to help more girls stay in school and out of child marriage, through its Protect 5,000 Girls from Child Marriage in Ghana and Girls Speak: Unlock Futures Campaign. HACEP-Ghana campaigns to achieve the Global Goals, including for gender equality.

We are fighting to put an end to laws that discriminate against women and girls in Northern Ghana, through our #LevelTheLaw campaign. This will not have been possible without you. Your Support is Changing the Lives of Girls and preparing the to achieve their full potentials.

Until we are fully funded, there is still more work to be done and your being part of the solution to end Child Marriage in Ghana is remarkably amazing. Do share our project with family and friends so that one day when we look back at these amazing times, we can all say we did it and God willing our grand children’s children will reap the benefits of the seeds we are sowing right now.

Thank you and don’t forget to take action by donating to our project with family and friends.

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Lamna had plans to become a doctor, a typical goal for top brilliant but poor girls in Northern Ghana. In November 2020, Lamna and I returned home after a long day at school.There was a gathering in Lamna’s family’s house which was unusual outside of holiday season. Her family and her relatives were preparing food and drinks. Lamna began crying when her mother told her that she was getting married the following Sunday to a 56-year-old man who she had not met before. The marriage was dictated by Lamna’s family in order to use her bride price for survival as her father has lost his job due to the economic crises caused by the COVID-19 global Pandemic.

Now Lamna became the 6th and youngest housewife with 6 months pregnant trying to survive and struggling with her health. This is not only Lamna’s story but is, unfortunately, the story of many girls in the Northern Region of Ghana. Lamna’s dream to be a doctor was cut short. This was a big loss for her as she had a vision for a better life. It is also a lost opportunity for Ghana, given the number of physicians in Ghana is very small. Unless serious action is taken to end child marriage, many young women will follow a similar story to Lamna, and child marriage will remain one of the major obstacles to Ghana’s social and economic development.

Her story was brought to the attention of our End Child Marriage Programme by her teachers and we quickly respond. Child marriage exposes girls to abuse, exploitation and early pregnancy. 15-year-old Lamna was married off to a 56-year-old rich man last year’s November in a quest to alleviate the family’s poverty worsen by the COVID-19 pandemic, this became her reality. HACEP-Ghana protect 5,000 Girls from Child Marriage in Ghana Project worked alongside the Traditional Authority and opinion leaders in her community to help her regain confidence, return to education and change her life.

Today, Lamna’s marriage has been annulled and she is back to school with her pregnancy whiles her husband and his family are demanding the return of their bride price with interest to a tunes of $500 as compensation for allegedly drugging the name of the family in the mud and turning them into an object of radicle in the community. This would not have been possible without you. Your donations have provided a rare opportunity for Lamna to start a new life and she is set to chase and achieve her dreams of becoming a medical doctor. Lamnas’ boldness to return to school with her pregnancy amidst the stigma and discrimination from her peers and community inspired so many girls in similar situation to open up, stand up and speak up against gender-based violence and the harmful traditional practices of child marriage in the region.

Last month112 girls from 10 different communities in Northern Ghana stood up to return to school with their pregnancies with the support of our End Child Marriage programme. These girls are now strong young activist for the voiceless, they are doing incredible work in their communities educating their person Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), teaching them about their basic and fundamental human rights and standing against child marriage as a harmful traditional practice that stifles girls ability to achieve their full potentials and participation in society and in decision making process in Northern Ghana.

The action against child marriage should begin with understanding the problem and its socio-economic impact on society. The reason why child marriage is still prevalent in Ghana is because of a lack of understanding of the problem and the associated lack of commitment from stakeholders. This is because the stakeholders are unable to see child marriage as an imminent danger that is taking away the bright future of young girls and its huge burden on the general economy. Increasing understanding of the problem and raising awareness of its negative impact will be a great impetus to tackle child marriage.

These extraordinary young girls now represent a very powerful voice and exceptional human rights defenders’ network and community watch-dogs looking out for their peers and girls at higher risk of child marriage in Northern Ghana. Lamna has this to say last week at the palace of the King of Northern Ghana (Overlord of Dagbon Kingdom) in a short meeting to annul yet another 32 child marriages with the support of the Dagbon Traditional Council, Norther Regional House of Chiefs and HACEP-Ghana protect 5,000 Girls from Child Marriage in Ghana Programme.

“We need girls and women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored. Gender based violence won't end, because of revenge, lies, hypocrisy and double standards, but it will end when we speak the truth always, doing what is right and the law doing what is right without fear or favor.”

With your support we can Raise legal standards, join hands and change values and norms that has consistently marginalized girls and women for centuries. Most countries have a minimum age of 18 for marriage. If the law requires a higher age than 18, the society will strive to meet the standard and this will improve the culture of marrying at an early age.

All stakeholders (both government and private actors) should join hands and have a common strategic plan and subdivide responsibility for achieving it. Changing values and norms of a society which encourages child marriage. Working on religious leaders, traditional elders, parents, men, boys and girls in raising their understating about the harmful effects of child marriage are a way to change these values and norms.

Thank you for being an important part of the solution to end child marriage in Ghana.

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Organization Information

Hats Community Empowerment Programme (HACEP-Ghana)

Location: Tamale, Northern Region - Ghana
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @hacepghana
Project Leader:
Abass Hamza
Mr.
Tamale, Northern Region Ghana
$1,353 raised of $5,000 goal
 
11 donations
$3,647 to go
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