Child Fund is an organisation dedicated to all child rights-focused interventions in Guinea. The organisation primarily has a sponsorship system to match children with adult guardians. As an organisation that is concerned about children, it comes as a little surprise that they were one of the active participants in the Ending Child Marriage Convening in Guinea that was organised by WACSI as part of a series of workshops in six West African countries including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. The workshops organised in February 2019 sought to reinforce national platforms and advocacy efforts towards ending child marriage in the targeted countries.
Building alliances towards ending child marriage
Julien Kamano, Project Monitoring Officer of Child Fund, recalling his experiences at the convening noted that the “group work was highly interactive, and the facilitation enabled us (participants) to share rich and insightful experiences”.
Kamano gained valuable lessons from the workshop.
According to him, “building alliances with all other relevant organisations working against child marriage helped to build knowledge and share experience”.
From the convening, Kamano took several action steps as part of his organisation’s contribution to curbing the menace of early child marriage in Guinea.
One of the major highlights of his actions was leading his organisation to integrate the fight against child marriage in their strategic plan for the next three years which was validated in March 2019.
Additionally, he secured funding for two organisations to implement projects to contribute to efforts to end child marriage in collaboration with other CSOs in the Kindia community. Kamano also organised several awareness campaigns, negotiations with families to secure or prevent early child marriages, providing financial support to the government for the organisation of an international day of the Girl Child among others.
Increased awareness among the public about child marriage
When quizzed about what significant milestones have been achieved as a result of all the efforts made, Kamano modestly noted that “is a bit early to talk about change… change is a long process”. However, he highlighted the increased awareness among the public about child marriage.
“People are more willing to denunciate [child marriage]. Formerly, it was parents making the call but now people are more aware and willing to intervene and call on NGOs [non-governmental organisations]”.
He went on to cite the biggest outcome of these efforts to be the cancellation of eight child marriages in conjunction with “Club des Jeunes Filles Leaders de Guinee”.
Speaking on the factors that facilitated the progress, Kamano singled out political will with support from government and the ministerial department in charge of fighting child marriage/ abuses, enthusiasm and commitment of NGOs in the sector, the commitment by the Country Director of Child Fund and more crucially, the platform created by WACSI for united voices on ending child marriage.
“A lot of sponsorship for the girls was dwindling because most guardians were not assured of the return on their investment in taking care of girls since many of them ended up dropping out of school in forced marriages. However, with the intervention of my organisation to alleviate child marriage, many guardians have been encouraged to invest in girls more,” he said.
The need for more efforts to support social change
Overall, Kamano is of the view that although some progress is being made, various forms of child abuses persist including rape, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, among others. He urges that there is a need for more attention to Guinea as a country, calling for more support from partners to strengthen capacity and mobilise efforts to support social change.