The Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have ended a two-day sensitization and awareness raising on early marriage of girls for religious leaders and traditional rulers in Kono, Kailahun and Pujehun districts.
The discussions took place at the National Pastoral Centre, off Dama Road in Kenema.
The national programmes coordinator of the Inter Religious Council, Mabel Bayoh, said they included traditional leaders in the training because they could influence the decisions of their subjects to stop giving out their very young children for marriages.
She said, “the practice has kept many girls far behind especially in the educational sector”, and encouraged religious leaders to play a part in eradicating it.
In his presentation Rev. Usman Fornah, the national secretary of the Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone and also interim general secretary of the Inter Religious Council, averred that, “early marriage takes many different forms and has various causes but one issue is paramount. Whether it occurs to a boy or a girl, early marriage is a violation of human rights. Many parents and heads of families make marital choices for their daughters and sons with little regard for the personal implications. Rather, they look upon marriage as a family building strategy, an economic arrangement or a way to protect girls from unwelcome sexual advances”. He ended by saying that majority of marriages in Sierra Leone were unregistered.
Emmanuel Bryma Momoh, the human rights officer of United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), spoke about Article 3 of the Sierra Leone Anti Human Trafficking Act, 2005 section 2 which talks about trafficking in persons, especially women and children.