Teenage pregnancy and child marriage continue to be major development issues in Bongo District of the Upper East Region leading to school dropouts and deepening the poverty cycle among families. As a result, stakeholders in the district have resolved to work together to intensify sensitisation among communities, on the effects of teenage pregnancy and child marriage on the growth and development of young people and to equip them with knowledge on sexual and reproductive health rights. They have also expressed their commitment to work with relevant institutions including the Bongo District Assembly and traditional authorities among others to institute community conventions to complement existing laws to regulate social functions.
The stakeholders including assembly members, traditional authorities, and opinion leaders from six electoral areas made the commitment in Bongo at a stakeholder engagement on ending child marriage and promoting sexual and reproductive health education. It was organised by Purim African Youth Development Platform (PAYDP), a Non-Governmental Organisation with funding support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its being implemented in Gowrie, Anafobisi, Bongo-Soe, Dua, Zorko-Goo and Zorko-Kodorogo.
Mr. Albert Akanmiim, the Assemblyman for Anafobisi Electoral Area, regretted that after several years of investment into addressing child protection issues, teenage pregnancy and child marriage continued to rise. He said among other things the frequent and unregulated social functions such as graduation ceremonies and funerals had been identified as contributory causes of teenage pregnancies in the district that force them into early marriage. “Some of these functions start late and run deep into the night and some of these girls take advantage of these and run from home to visit their boyfriends. So, we are saying that if it is possible, we can review or minimise some of these activities,” he said.
He underscored the need for leaders of the communities to engage trainers of vocational skills to ensure that their programmes did not run into the night and reduce their charges that sometimes push apprentices into giving themselves to men in exchange for financial support.
Madam Rita Abamah, the Bongo District Girl Child Education Officer, Ghana Education Service, said child protection issues such as defilement continued to be on the rise and noted that parental irresponsibility and neglect were major factors that needed to be addressed.
Mr. Francis Achaliwie, the Bongo District Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Justice said there were legal frameworks such as the Criminal Code and the Children Act that could be employed to deal with perpetrators of child abuse such as defiling and rape to deter others. He urged the District Assembly to formulate bylaws that would regulate activities that gave rise to child exploitation and abuse leading to teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
Ms. Millicent Ocloo, the Programmes Officer, PAYDP, noted that the project was aimed at equipping out-of-school young girls with accurate information on sexual and reproductive health rights to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their sexual life. She said due to teenage pregnancy and child marriage, many young girls abandoned school and travelled down south to do menial jobs which affected their growth and development. She called for collective efforts from all stakeholders to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy and support young girls to learn a trade to provide economic independence which will prevent them from getting married early.
Source: Anthony Adongo Apube|Ghanadistricts.com