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Health News of Saturday, 19 June 2021

Source: GNA

Let's promote sexual and reproductive health among adolescent girls - Gender Minister

Promotion of good sexual and reproductive health rights is critical  for human development Promotion of good sexual and reproductive health rights is critical for human development

Mrs Sarah Adwoa Safo, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, has said that the promotion of good sexual and reproductive health and rights was a critical prerequisite for human development, particularly for adolescent girls.

She said sexual and gender-based violence was a major factor undermining the health, dignity, security and autonomy of victims, who are mostly women and girls.

As a result, she said Government had prioritised the improvements in the health status of adolescents and children through various interventions.

She said, “government through the Ministry has initiated various interventions to ensure that adolescents grow up attaining their full potential and contribute meaningfully to national development."

Mrs Safo said this at the National Gender Equality Clinic organized by the Ministry through its Department of Gender [DoG] with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday, in Accra.

She said the Clinic seeks to engage adolescents on issues of gender equality, sexual and gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights and provide them with the requisite information on life skills, including career development.

It is also aimed at bringing change in the gender equality narrative by involving males and creating a network of adolescents to debunk gender equality myths.

She said adolescence was the transitional period between childhood and adulthood with specific health and developmental needs and rights, and during this period, adolescents were at risk of substance use and abuse; unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy, and teenage parenting; school underachievement, failure, dropout and delinquency, crime, and violence.

"In Ghana, adolescent girls are mostly vulnerable to harmful traditional and cultural practices, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) of all forms and unwanted pregnancies. "

Available statistics indicated that in 2019, 14, 920 cases including rape, defilement, incest, and compulsory marriage were reported to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service.

The sector Minister said District Health Information Management system (DHIMS) of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) recorded astounding numbers of adolescent pregnancy cases in 2020 with 2,865 girls between 10 and 14 years and 107,023 girls between 15 and 19.

A regional breakdown of this report across the country indicates that Ashanti, Eastern and Central regions recorded cases of 17,802, 10,865, and 10,301 respectively.

"In 2020, adolescent pregnancy saw a sharp rise with thirteen (13) teenage pregnancies recorded every hour in Ghana. This change was attributed to the impact of coronavirus pandemic. This revelation is indeed alarming and needs immediate attention."

Mrs Safo said it was time to help the adolescents develop their knowledge and skills, learn to manage emotions and relationships and acquire attributes and abilities necessary to enjoy their adolescent years and assume adult roles.

"It is an opportune time to inculcate the values of an equal society where males and females are seen as partners in development, as well as empower them to make informed choices about their lives."

She urged adolescent parents, to take responsibility and take advantage of the natural connection they have with their children to correct, direct, discipline and advise them in love towards attaining their full potential.

Ms Faustina Acheampong, Head, DoG, said the programme which brought together more than 100 youth from all the regions was part of Ghana’s effort towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal 5, which urged state actors to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls by 2030.

She said women and girls constituted more than half of the world’s population yet, they were regularly discriminated against.

However, it was necessary for society to acknowledge that the potential for growth and prosperity could be achieved when women and girls were empowered and afforded equal opportunities as men and boys.

"It has become discreet to include men and boys in gender equality dialogs for a sustainable progress in combatting discrimination, thus the inclusion of boys being part of this years’ clinic."

She encouraged the girls to take their studies seriously to realize their full potentials as great leaders and agents of change in their homes, communities and the country as a whole, while urging the boys to support the promotion of the gender agenda and light the flame of gender equality, right and empowerment for national development.

Madam Selina Owusu, National Gender Analyst, UNFPA, said as the sexual and reproductive health agency of the UN, "UNFPA ensures that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young persons’ potential is fulfilled, hence their contributions and programme interventions in SGBV related issues, Child Marriage, harmful practices and gender equality with the goal of leaving no one behind.

She said all persons had the right to live a dignified life devoid of violence and abuse, especially women and girls who were extremely affected.

Women and girls continue to face discriminations based on stereotypes, gender gap, inequality, patriarchy, cultural norms and religious beliefs.

"Women play key roles in development and their contributions cannot be underestimated. Empowering women and girls is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and the country."

Ms Owusu said when women lived safe, fulfilled and productive lives, they could reach their full potential, contributing their skills to the workforce and raise happier and healthier children and boost the GDP.

They are also able to help fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.

She said a key part of empowering women and girls was through mentorship and education and mentoring and developing the agency of girls was an effective way of addressing poverty, inequality, improve access to general healthcare and wellbeing, including mental health and the reduction of violence and abuse against women and girls.

Ms Owusu said the transition process from childhood to adolescent was a confusing and challenging phase for most girls as they struggled to understand some changes in their bodies and form their self esteem, identities, gender expressions and roles.

"It is, therefore, crucial that gender equality education begins early for adolescents in order to conscientize them about the importance of gender equality, inculcate respect for both sexes and disband any negative stereotypes.

She reiterated the UNFPA's committment towards ensuring that all forms of violence against women and girls were eliminated and to empower girls to be assertive to enhance their agency for them to thrive in a holistic manner.