The Minister of Ministry of Social Welfare Melrose Karminty, has revealed that the proposed Early Child Marriage Bill signifies a crucial step towards safeguarding the rights of children, particularly young girls, and ensuring that they are empowered to make informed choices about their own lives in the country.

She described the occasion as both a privilege and a responsibility to engage in such high-level consultative meetings that hold the potential to bring about positive change and protect the rights and wellbeing of our children, adding that early child marriage remains a pressing concern in Sierra Leone, with serious implications for the welfare and prospects of our young girls. She described it as a practice rooted in tradition and social norms, but one that also perpetuates a cycle of poverty, illiteracy, gender inequality, and increasing vulnerability.

She furthered that young girls have been challenge to a higher likelihood of early pregnancies and health risks for both the mother and the child. She said that early marriage can further reinforce gender inequalities by perpetuating traditional norms that place less value on girls’ education and empowerment, adding that early child marriages have caused serious effects on the mental well-being of young girls, causing them to experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicide attempts. Another impact caused by early marriage pointed out by the minister is the issue of social isolation, as young brides are often separated from their peers and support network.

She said that having such legislation can have a positive and lasting impact on the country’s future generations.

She said that by setting a legal framework that establishes a minimum age for marriage, provides support services for at-risk individuals, and implements mechanisms for enforcement and accountability, we can begin to dismantle the harmful practices that perpetuate early child marriage.

The minister urged all stakeholders present to lend their expertise, resources, and voices to the cause of ending early marriage in our country by collaborating, innovating, and advocating for change that will create a brighter and more equitable future for all our children.