Some 30 teens and young adults in communities across the Brong -Ahafo Region have benefitted from a five-day adolescent reproductive health/capacity building seminar, under the auspices of UK-aid.
Dubbed Girls Leading Our World/ Boys Respecting Others Camp, and running under the theme: Building the Future through Positive Adolescent Reproductive Health and Agriculture, the event (which came off from January 16th to January 22nd) sought to empower these young beneficiaries in subjects relating to responsible sexual behavior, personal hygiene, leadership, and a variety of income generating skills.
A glamorous opening ceremony, held at the Ghana Permaculture Institute (GPI) in Techiman on January 25th, was graced by key stakeholders and partners including those from the Permaculture Institute (which also served as venue for the camp), the District Coordinating Director, Palladium International, Peace Corps Ghana, as well as the National Youth Authority (NYA).
Representatives of the District Coordinating Director, Palladium International, Peace Corps Ghana, as well as the National Youth Authority (NYA), all commended the timeliness and importance of the programme and the positive effects it is expected to generate in the coming months.
Speaking on behalf of the Peace Corps, Amanda (also a teacher in the area) espoused the overall motive of the organization: “to live and work in communities, to help connect them to resources, and empower the future leaders of Ghana through education, health, and agricultural projects. During this camp, we have been connecting the youth to resources in this region, and how to use their surroundings to create an income, be independent, take care of their families, and be contributing citizens to Ghana. It has been rewarding for Peace Corps to be able to work hand in hand with Palladium to teach creative activities and agricultural projects; as an education volunteer, I personally enjoyed seeing the youth participating in hands-on activities and growing into leadership positions.
The selected teenagers and young adults, according to Peace Corps volunteers who were involved in the recruitment process, must exhibit traits of self-motivation and must have natural flair for leadership, as well as academic potential.
The beneficiaries were taken through practical sessions in bead-making, beekeeping, mushroom farming and cashew grafting, as well as batik-making, were full of praise for the opportunity to be part of the seminar. Alex Mensah (from Duadaso), Abdulai Dallah ( from Techiman Fianso), Ernest Kelvin Oppong (from Nkoranza), Edna Arigbe (from Techiman), Belinda (from Techiman) were some of the participants.
“I look forward to applying the skills I have acquired here when I leave, as it affords me multiple avenues to make money”, an enthusiastic Alex revealed to DAILY GUIDE. “It has taken a lot to reclaim the land, and there’s no use of chemicals here. We have been taken through several permacultural practices. I am grateful to all who have made this possible.” The skills in batik, I have learned, I hope to share with my colleagues when I return home”, Edna added.
The situation today
Statistics relating to Ghana’s adolescent reproductive health situation are staggering: about 31% of Ghana’s current population are young people (ages 10-24). A 2014 report placed the contribution of adolescents to fertility at 9.1 %, and 3 of every 10 births are between the ages of 15 and 24. Again, a 2016 30-year projection by the National Population Council of Ghana states that Ghana’s “New Generation” (between ages 15-24) will soar from 1.3 million to 3 million, and lack of preparation spells doom, especially regarding Ghana’s poverty situation.
But the situation has largely “been ignored”, Alaya Adogboba (Programme Officer for Palladium on the Ghana Adolescent Reproductive Health Project) opined.
The Brong- Ahafo Region specifically, lags behind as compared to other parts of the country in this respect, hence, being the focal point of the Ghana Adolescent Reproductive Health Project (GHARH).
Many of the adolescents in the area (especially young women), because of extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunities after school, resort to sexual relationship with men expecting financial assistance, no matter how paltry, though they are not fully prepared for the repercussions (STI’s, unwanted pregnancies among others).
“It’s time to break that cycle”, Alaya cried, adding that programmes thus – are effective tools.
She also calls for an end to the depressing Ghanaian culture of hypocrisy especially with matters relating to adolescent reproductive health, asking that parents should eschew shyness and eliminate the perception of sexual education as a taboo.
“The Ghanaian child is getting pregnant at 15”, Amanda (Peace Corp volunteer at the camp) stresses about the situation, advising that the matter of adolescent reproductive health be tackled head-on, and not massaged in any way, or be limited by cultural considerations.
But there’s hope…
While there’s still much to be done to improve the adolescent reproductive health situation, and possibly eradicate the menace from the region (and by extension, the country), key steps have been put in place by several partners including the Ghana Health Service, the National Population Council among others, to tackle the problem.
In the Brong-Ahafo Region, 64 adolescent health corners have been set up in the past three years, over 1000 Ghana Health Service Personnel, some 1,681 teachers, as well as over 3000 peer educators have been trained in adolescent reproductive health issues. 75 M & E officers who went on the field to monitor the progress of the initiative, have supported in the review of the Reproductive Health Policy for adolescents.
Expected outcomes from this camp, according to an official programme document, include inculcating leadership habits into participants, guiding them to make better sex and life choices, as well as building their capacities in the area of agricultural skills and other income generating activities in their home communities.
Hannah Kyremeh a Physician Assistant based in Techiman, who was also bead-making instructor at the camp, as well as Donkor Yaw Barnabas, a local teacher, translator at the event, were both optimistic that GLOW/BRO 2017 would go a long way to improve situations. “There’s nothing better than having your own job. These skills will make them [young girls especially] less dependent”, Hannah was convinced.
The progress of beneficiaries (who are also recipients of funding to go into various startups based on the knowledge they have acquired at the camp), will be monitored over time, according to Alaya. They will be assigned mentors to guide them toward their goals, and she was optimistic that ripple effects from GLOW/BRO 2017 would be felt all across the country.
The GLOW/BRO Camp 2017 is based on former U.S First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to improve education among boys and girls in the sub-region. Funded by UK-aid, it is also supported by Palladium International, Unilever Ghana, the Ghana Health Service, Ghana Education Service, and the National Population Council.