Belfast Telegraph

Alesha Dixon urges action on child marriage

The singer and TV star wants the public to support ActionAid’s work to help girls forced into marriage.

Alesha Dixon is urging the public to help end child marriage after visiting Ghana and hearing “heart-breaking” stories of what many young girls are forced to endure.

The Britain’s Got Talent judge travelled with ActionAid to the Upper West region of Ghana, where teenage girls are regularly abducted for child marriage.

She said: “I came to Ghana nervously anticipating what I might see or what I might hear.

“And what I have seen, and heard has been heart-breaking.

“Every human being has the right to a choice and freedom, so that being taken away from a vulnerable young girl who has no idea what might happen to her is beyond shocking.

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Alesha Dixon (Abbie Trayler Smith/ActionAid)

“The basic principle of having the right to choose your own path and decide your own future is snatched away.”

In Ghana, one in five girls are married before they are 18, and in the Upper West region of the country 50 young girls are abducted and forced into early marriage every year.

The practice prevents girls from completing their education, and leaves them trapped in a cycle of poverty and inequality.

Dixon, 38, said: “I’ve seen first-hand the work ActionAid do to rescue girls from child marriage, and ensure they can claim their rights, return to school and choose a future they deserve.

“Even if you grow up as a girl in poverty, you should still be able to feel that there is hope, that you have a choice, and be able to feel like if I go to school and work really hard, that one day I can become a nurse, one day I can go on to become a teacher.

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Alesha Dixon (Abbie Trayler Smith/ActionAid)

“But we need to ensure ActionAid is able to support more girls, so they too can have that choice.”

ActionAid chief executive Girish Menon said the organisation was “so grateful” to the star for accompanying them to Ghana.

He said: “At ActionAid, we believe every girl should be free to complete their education, reach their potential, and have their health and wellbeing protected. We’re working on many fronts to end this form of violence, but there is still much to do.

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Alesha Dixon (Abbie Trayler Smith/ActionAid)

“We need the public’s support to speed up progress to end child marriage, and protect millions of girls and help change their lives for good.”

:: To support ActionAid’s child marriage campaign visit www.actionaid.org.uk/childmarriage

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From Belfast Telegraph