According to Ghana Statistical Service data from the 2021 Population and Housing Census, about 79,733 girls in Ghana aged 12 to 17 have been in union, either married or living together with a man. Out of this number, 25,999 are girls of junior high school-going age (12 to 14 years).
In the Volta Region it states that one out of four girls are married or are in a union before 18 years. According to the GHS District Health Information Management System (DHIMS), over 6,000 girls got pregnant between 2020 and 2021 alone.
Domestic violence also remains very high in the region with the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service recording about 1,058 cases in 2020 alone, as compared to 2018 and 2019 when 809 and 687 cases respectively were recorded. Of great concern were defilement incidents, where 230 cases were reported, threat of death, 114; assault, 278; rape, 70; threat of harm, 75; abduction, 50 and non-maintenance 100.
Many adolescent girls and boys remain victims as well as perpetrators of such abuses. Some may engage in such behaviour for varied reasons, including lack of knowledge of their individual and collective rights and the laws.
Aside from depriving girls of their right to education and a healthy childhood, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), adolescent pregnancy and child marriage also expose girls to early unprotected sexual activities, which result in serious reproductive health and economic consequences such as unsafe abortion, malnutrition, obstructed birth, obstetric fistula and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDs, dropout from school and feminised intergenerational poverty for the victims, their families and society as a whole.
Currently, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), says the region records over 14 percent of adolescent pregnancies, which is above the regional figure of 10 percent attained in 2022.
In view of these, stakeholders have been urged to step up efforts to reduce adolescent pregnancies in the region.
On the sidelines of an engagement session with students of the Vakpo Senior High School in the North Dayi District, last week Wednesday, the Director of the Department of Gender in the Volta Region, Thywill Eyra Kpe, stated that efforts needed to be strengthened to make the achievement of the SDGs attainable by 2030.
“For example if we have about 6,000 girls getting pregnant in our region alone it is not something we can be proud of. It is not something that can help us in achieving our SDGs by 2030,” she stated.
The SDG Target 3.7 on Sexual and Reproductive Health states that by 2030, there should be universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies.
Ms Kpe stated further; “We’ve made slight improvement and slight gains in addressing teenage pregnancy from about 14.5 percent to about 13.5 percent, so at least we have made some small gains. However, these gains are insignificant. Therefore, it is for us to sustain the efforts that we are making.”
She also stressed the need for intensive education and empowerment on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRHR) as well as SGBV and the provision of space to respond to some of their fears and concerns, in order to achieve the goal of a good and proper transitional growth of the adolescents.
“There is the need to empower adolescents on issues of Gender Equality, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, Drug Abuse, Assertiveness and confidence building and intensify knowledge sharing engagements with adolescents.
“Most especially it is important to listen to their fears about the changes that occur in their lives at this stage and help to deal with these fears effectively,” she said.
The one-day Campus Conversation organised for students of the Vakpo Senior High School empowered adolescents on ASRHR and SGBV.
Dubbed: “Camp Convo”, the engagement was used to empower the students to become assertive, build their confidence and support one another when faced with challenges.
The programme under the auspices of the Volta Regional Coordination Council, with support from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, was an avenue to generate honest discussions with the adolescents and provide a platform to respond to some of their fears and concerns.
Public Health Nurse, Hilda Kotoh, speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, said teenage pregnancy was still prevalent in the district.
She said the district had so far recorded 18.9 per cent in adolescent pregnancies in the first quarter of 2023 alone, despite a national target of 11.5 per cent.
Ms Kotoh described the challenge as a huge difficulty, since it mostly maimed the possibilities of Ghana’s future leaders in reaching their full potential.
She called for a multi-stakeholder approach in curbing the canker resulting from poor parental control and other environmental factors including the unavailability of positive role modelling.
She said the collective efforts would lead to the total prevention of unsafe abortions and other health complications such as preeclampsia in adolescent pregnancies.
The Assistant Headmaster of the School, Julius Anthony, described the engagement as timely because “sometimes we see girl students becoming pregnant; so I think this kind of information at this particular time will go a long way to curb some of the issues that we’ve been seeing”.
He indicated that the institution was currently implementing some interventions, including the setting up of a peer educator club for the adolescents and the formation of a disciplinary committee as measures to curb the menace.
The engagement was also used to gather information on key challenges confronting young people at that stage and help them find better ways of addressing them.
Students as well as teachers of the school actively participated in conversations that also bordered on child marriage, gender equality and sexual and gender-based violence.
The engagement included a 20-minute panel discussion by adolescents on their ASRHR and SGBV, and short presentations by facilitators through the use of flash cards, documentaries and demonstrations.
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