Source: The Daily Observer
The executive director of Action Aid International The Gambia (AAITG), has emphasised that early and forced marriage limits a girl's opportunity to go to school or benefit from alternatives or vocational education.

Dr. Kujejatou Manneh was speaking at the start of a one-day symposium held to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, at the Kanifing Municipal Council Multi Purpose Centre in Kanifing. The day is set aside by the United Nations to promote girls' rights and highlight the gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys. The theme for the celebrations this year is "Early Marriage; Girls not Brides".

The Action Aid Gambia boss explained that early marriage often means the end of a girl's schooling and the beginning of a life at home for which she is often ill-prepared. "Girls generally would have few opportunities to find work, and if they do, lack of education means it will be poorly paid, making it almost impossible to break free from poverty," she said.

Whilst emphasising the importance of education for the girl child, Dr. Manneh also called on girls not to give their parents the cause to anxiously give them away for early marriage.

Meanwhile, the opening ceremony was followed by a symposium featuring Dr. Liz Forbes of Soul Talk, Yadicon Njie Eribo of the Forum for African Women Educationist The Gambia (FAWEGAM), Fanta Bai Secka of the Department of Social Welfare, Njundu Drammeh of the Child Protection Alliance and the Police Child Welfare Unit, all of whom spoke on the theme from different perspectives. Their interventions generated a lot of discussion from the students.

Numerous questions such as 'what legislation is in place to protect the girl child from early marriage'; 'how can the girl child be helped to finish her schooling when her parents cannot afford her school fees?'; and 'can the girl child be allowed back in school if she gets pregnant'; were just a few of the questions posed by the students to the panelists.

The symposium, which was punctuated by drama performances and puppet shows on early marriage from Soul Talk and Nova Scotia Gambia Association, attracted a lot of students, parents and teachers from a cross-section of society. Prior to the symposium, schoolchildren, parents and teachers joined in a march past led by the Scout Band, from Westfield Junction to the KMC Multi-purpose Centre along Jimpex Road, meant to enhance awareness on the challenges faced by the girl child. 

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