Liberia: Traditional Leaders Sign Declaration to Tackle Teenage Pregnancy

The National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia (NACCEL), has affirmed its commitment to re-adjust all traditional norms and practices that stand as barriers against their fight in curtailing teenage pregnancy.

In a statement released by the traditional leaders over the weekend in Monrovia, under the guidance of Chief Zanzan Karwor, NACCEL said their decision to vigorously tackle teenage pregnancy comes amid its high increase across the country, which has the propensity to subject the future generation of the country into unspeakable poverty.

Chief Karwor said that despite the widespread poverty in the country, it is wrong for parents or guardians to marry their child off early, which thereby exposes them to teenage pregnancy.

"It is appalling to know that our tradition, which we as leaders are charged with the responsibility to promote and protect positively, has been named one of the instruments in the promotion of teenage pregnancy," Chief Karwor said.

"We as traditional leaders, hereby commit ourselves to work tirelessly by ensuring that our girls are educated or given the chance to acquire education without any form of obstruction in the name of tradition and culture. We believe change begins with us, and so culture and tradition should move along as the world move on," he said.

Chief Zanzan Karwor added that they have begun working on modalities to take the necessary action in efforts to stop teenage pregnancy through the end of early child marriage, and other harmful traditional practices against women and children."

Besides, he said, "we will ex-communicate traditional leaders that would encourage practices that promote teenage pregnancy, as well as perpetrators, and ensure access to justice for those young ones, who could be tampered with from now on. More to ensure that our traditional courthouses and institutions are accessible and safe spaces for women, children and survivors of teenage pregnancy and other forms of violence against women and girls."

"We, as custodians, protectors and promoters of our culture and traditions and as those entrusted with the responsibility to foster positive Liberian culture stand against the suppression of the girl child and shall, therefore, take serious actions to remedy the situation," he said, the chief said.

Chief Zanzan Karwor said although the legal age for marriage in Liberia is 18, his institution wants the law to be changed to 21 years to enable girls to decide at a more mature age.

"We support government laws against rape, which is one of the deadly instruments been used in the spread of teenage pregnancy and strongly condemn its compromise in our communities by traditional leaders, and other stakeholders," he said.

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