Founding member and Executive Director of RUWA-GHANA.
The Plight of a Survivor of Child Marriage and a Victim of Unconsented Elopement.
Sarah Mwinisongbo (not her real name) suffered a violence of an unconsented elopement. This has affected her life and has caused her, her Education as she couldn’t bear the stigma and the ordeal she suffered leading to her becoming a school dropout when she was just about to register for her final BECE exams.
Sarah, an orphan of 17 years old and a native of the Dorimon-Kolingu community in the Wa West district of the upper west region of Ghana, became a subject of mockery in class for being eloped without her consent. Elopement without consent is a common cultural norm peculiar to the community whereby girls are eloped and later turn to their families with an apology to get consent for marriage. The act has jeopardized Sarah’s education and her dream to become a nurse. She narrated that she encountered the awkward incident in the evening on a market day on May 13, 2021, when she was returning home after a community entertainment and was taken by some men who blindfolded her into a stand-by tricycle, which took off immediately. She later noticed that she was taken to marry a man whom she had never met anywhere, and was then forced to live with this strange man for two weeks before she was rescued.
She lamented that her elopement was not only the trouble she faced in the circumstances, but she also stopped schooling because she could no longer handle the ridicules of her colleagues pointing fingers at her and referring to her as the girl who was eloped. What made it worse was that even her teacher, whom she identified as ‘Teacher Emma’ kept telling her to stop pretending that she didn’t know the man who eloped her.
According to her teacher at Dorimon Junior High School (JHS), Labaika Sufyan, who is one of the RUWA-GHANA’S Girl Child Club patrons under the ‘ENOUGH’ project, Sarah (not her real name) was a Girls Prefect (GP) at the primary school level and the incident happened when she was in JHS. “I heard she was eloped during their second term in JHS One”, Labaika explained. She added that “they actually came to Dorimon, a bigger community where our school is located, for an entertainment program at night and then she was picked”. “I am told that it is the cultural here that girls are being eloped by picking them up in a blindfolded manner to their husbands’ houses, some days later the husbands go to ‘apologize’ to the girls’ families and announced to them they picked the girls and once they do that, they have married the girls like that”. Labaika concluded that, she was no longer with that JHS where she was a patron to the School Club, but she had to take the matter up and she succeeded in seeking justice for Sarah by reporting the case to the police with the assistance of her family since they were also not in support of the situation.
The man was then arrested, and Sarah (not her real name) was rescued and given back to her family to continue her normal life, but she faced another level of trauma; she was unable to join her colleagues to write the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in October 2022. Also, she couldn’t handle ridicules from her colleagues and a teacher who thought she planned her elopement. She is a school dropout now.
“Enough! Empowering Women, Girls, Boys and Men to Take Up Positive Action in Ending Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Ghana.”
RUWA-GHANA started the implementation of the “ENOUGH” project in April 2020, which is a partnership project with Oxfam in Ghana and funded by the European Union. It is a campaign to fight against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in three districts of the upper west region of Ghana, namely Wa East, Wa West, and Wa Municipal. The objectives included Campaign against Forced and Early Marriage; Abuse of the Sexual Health Rights of Girls through Rape and Defilement; and Powerful People able to Subvert the Course of Justice by Allowing for Amicable Settlements of Rape and Defilement Cases.
The 3-year project, which will end in December 2022, has yielded some outcomes, including Sarah’s story.