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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah/Priscilla Esi Korankye

ICPD25 and Ghana's reproductive health agenda

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As far back as the 1960s, Ghana had a national agenda – to control population growth by empowering women with a pro-choice agenda.

And on 8 April, 2019 reported President Akufo-Addo as saying that the government’s strategic Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies (CPESDP) had outlined clearly government’s proposed action on population and reproductive health which included the reduction of the population growth “from 2.2 per cent per annum to 1.5 per cent per annum”.

But, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) has taken placed and ended in Nairobi from 12 to 14 November – without any public debate here in Ghana!

We did not even hear of a statement on Ghana’s position paper for the conference.

About half of Ghana’s population today were too young to hear about the Beijing conference of 1995 or the Cairo ICPD in 1994.

Ghana’s Professor Fred Torgbor Sai who passed on only a few weeks ago was very prominent on population issues; he moderated the Cairo conference with great knowledge and skill.

Just wondering… many of our appointed officials today can moderate an international conference!

“Did you know that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, globally?” the message from Plan International arriving in our email inbox Tuesday hit us in the face hard.

We were stunned and decided to seek confirmation.

“A teenage girl dies every 20 minutes through pregnancy or childbirth, latest figures show,” the lead of a story published on dated 11 July, 2017 read.

The Plan International message said the Nairobi conference wanted to say: “They [women] are tired of patriarchal control of their bodies, sexuality and reproductive rights.”

In our society, however, it is not only men who have control over the bodies of women; our mothers, aunties and yes, school mothers in boarding schools have even greater control over their bodies.

In a small village in the Central Region of Ghana, a few weeks ago, Ms A was introduced by Mr O to some lovely and wonderful family and friends as his girlfriend.

This was an alibi for the man to live with the woman as a concubine with the endorsement of society.

But at religious gatherings Ms A is introduced by her boyfriend as “a niece.”

The reason is not difficult to fathom: the church will not bless a future marriage if the members got to know the pair are in cohabitation and “living in sexual sin.”

This has gone on for some years now, starting from when she was a teenager, with poor use of contraceptives.

Ms A, who is now 21, and has recently got a teaching job at a crèche tells us: “When the right time comes we will get married.”

She has no specific reason why she has been acting as “a niece for years,” but it is obvious she is disempowered and entrapped by her own lack of knowledge.

Ms A does all the chores assigned to her as “a very good and responsible woman” but Mr O who is 10 years older than her is not always appreciative.

Ms A says she is “abused sexually and sometimes beaten.”

But she feels trapped and will not go to her parents because in her mind once a man has sex with you “he must marry you”.

“A man needs to be pampered, not a woman,” Mr O told us.

And he has gotten his girlfriend to believe this for several years with the promise that women who pamper men are rewarded with a future marriage.

Twenty-five years from the Cairo summit the momentum in this country has died down; the real difference between Ghana and ghana have clearly been established.

Back in the day with just the state-owned media and a nascent private press, real issues were discussed.

Today with over 300 radio stations and scores of TV channels all with the ability for syndicate broadcasting and a huge social media following, there was no debate!

Not even our Parliament saw the need to highlight Ghana’s torchbearer position.

Or are we shell shocked by our incompetent handling of “Comprehensive Sexuality Education”?

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