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Health News of Thursday, 27 June 2019

Source: ghananewsagency.org

Religious leaders to intensify education on adolescent reproductive rights

Religious leaders in the Central Region have re-affirmed their support and commitment to intensify education on adolescent reproductive rights, as well as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and its related issues that infringed on their rights.

They will equip adolescents with knowledge, skills, values and timely information required, for them to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships.

The education would be segmented to be age-appropriate with culturally relevant approaches on sex and relationships that are realistic and also offer non-judgmental information on their behavioural and attitudinal traits.

Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed, Ekumfi Circuit Imam, announced this on behalf of the religious leaders at a day's stakeholders’ workshop to build the capacity of leaders of Faith Based Organizations (FBO) to scale up public education and support mechanisms on sexual and Gender Based violence (SGBV) held in Cape Coast on Wednesday.

The engagement was organized by the Central Regional Department of Gender in collaboration with the Coordinating Council (RCC) and UNFPA with funding from the Canadian Government.

The religious leaders called for a stronger collaboration between Christians, Muslims and other faiths to effectively set the parameters on adolescents’ reproductive health education and advocated for massive investment in recreational and social infrastructure by government.

FBOs should also support related agencies to offer protection to victims of SGBV while parents put premium on the needs of their children by providing their basic needs such as shelter, health, food, education and security.

Ms. Amanda Odoi, Senior Research Assistance at the Centre for Gender Research, Advocacy and Documentation (CEGRAD) of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) who facilitated the discussion, indicated that immediate interventions of religious and traditional leaders remained key to significantly increasing knowledge and understanding of adolescents about sex to promote and sustain risk-reducing behaviours.

She asked religious leaders not to shy away from exposing adolescents to early sex education, because most adolescents were already having sex and some with multiple partners unknown to their parents.

"Taking about sex with children does not make or encourage them to be asexually active but rather help protect themselves sexually. Sexual desires in adolescents is not because they are bad or promiscuous but it is just the most intense stage where there is increased sexual urge therefore you must try to manage and reconcile sexuality with other sides of self-perception which are developing without conflicts and stress," she advised.

She enumerated some consequences of staying away from sex education to include ignorance while facing sexual problems, undesired pregnancies, STIs, curtailed education and adolescent marriage and cohabitation.

However, Ms. Odoi charged parents and guardians to seize every moment by being honest, open, direct and attentive, and refrain from being judgmental about relationships, but rather, monitor and supervise the activities of adolescents.

Mrs Thywill Eyra Kpe, Regional Director of the Department of Gender, asked the parents to do away with any tradition and custom that affected the wellbeing of vulnerable people especially children.

Marrying off teenage pregnant girls to safeguard family honour must not be encouraged, she cautioned the parents.

She called for them to be schooled on child marriage and Gender issues, the Children's Act 1998, child protection and the consequences associated with it.

Mrs. Kpe mentioned types of gender violence to include sexual, physical, psychological, economic and verbal abuse and gave examples like rape, incest, defilement and child labour, adding that "they are social misdeeds that often lead to untimely deaths, affect health and marriage life, school dropout and pregnancies".

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