Two approaches to ending child marriage in Sierra Leone

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Samantha Marie-Louise Oakes-Howson, Blog4Dev Sierra Leone winner Samantha Marie-Louise Oakes-Howson, Blog4Dev Sierra Leone winner

To end child marriage in Sierra Leone, I propose two approaches, each working sensibly and exponentially to bring a complete stop to this issue.  

The first approach is coined the soft method approach. Under this approach, the pivotal theme of family planning should be introduced, overemphasized and over-publicized. A nation devoid of any family planning programs would see citizens having too many children that they cannot effectively provide for. The resulting over-population would dwindle down our country’s economy and minimize the provision of welfare services, leaving parents to in effect sell off their girl child for money. Therefore, for child marriage to be successfully ended, family planning programs should be strengthened.  

Alleviating poverty would also prove favorable to ending child marriage. One of the major reasons for the prevalence of child marriage is for monetary gains to provide relief to parent’s basic needs. Assisting poverty-stricken nations by implementing various monetary programs would help parents provide for their household’s basic needs.  

This can be achieved by instituting various micro-finance services and bringing in investment opportunities such as large-scale farming, factories and industries, which would provide parents with dire needed finances without having them resulting to more devastating options such as child marriage. The final step included under this plan is to empower and educate every girl child in the most basic way so that no child is left out. To this end, I recommend establishing a free vocational institution providing short courses in skills such as tailoring, catering, hairdressing to girls 13-years-old and above. Employment opportunities should also be provided by the said institutions after graduation, enabling the girls to contribute financially in their household and expand their education if so desired. This would result in the girl child being seen as a great financial benefit to the household, and there would be no need to marry them off for financial gain.  

Following is the hard approach. This involves dealing with the pesky issue of child marriage being both a social and even a religious norm. This mode of thinking can be overpowered by emphasizing that child marriage is a crime and doubling down on the implementation process.  

First, I propose establishing a serious penalty for child marriages, for example a period of five years and extending it not only to the potential husband but to the girl’s parent as well. What are sanctions if not an effective way of deterrence?  

Even though this would limit child marriage, people will actually find a way to circumvent this by not having registered formal marriages. To this I propose incorporating a “see and tell” campaign. That is, if anyone sees an example of child marriage taking place, they should report it confidentially and if the claim when investigated is assessed to be true, would receive a small monetary compensation. If incorporated, these semi-detailed proposals if incorporated would be successful in ending child marriage in Sierra Leone. 

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