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Regional News of Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Source: GNA

Adolescent girls' well-being contributes to sustainable development - Report

A new statistical report published by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has underscored the need for concerted and sustained investment in the rights and well-being of adolescent girls in Ghana.

The report, which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by UNICEF Ghana, indicated that this would significantly contribute to the country’s overall progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The study entitled, "Protecting and empowering adolescent girls in Ghana," outlines how early pregnancy, violence, and excessive household chores thwart the opportunities of many girls aged between 10 and 19 years, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized.

It said the trend had worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its containment measures.

It said since becoming the first country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, Ghana had made significant progress toward realising the rights of adolescent girls.

"Governments have invested in proactive measures to develop and implement several legal and institutional frameworks to promote the empowerment of adolescent girls," it stated.

"However, the data outlined in the new report reveal that more efforts are required to fulfil the rights of adolescent girls, to fully address their particular challenges and to strengthen their contribution to their own lives and those of others."

Some of the highlights within the report include, one in 10 adolescent girls had sex before the age of 15, compared to one in 14 adolescent boys, yet only a minority of the girls have their contraceptive needs met.

It noted that almost all adolescent girls were exposed to psychological aggression and nearly one in five experienced severe physical punishment.

The report said adolescent girls were at heightened risk of physical, psychological and sexual violence, with 22 percent having suffered sexual abuse in the past 12 months.

It said early pregnancies increase the risk of maternal mortality, a leading cause of death among adolescent girls

It said one in six pregnant adolescent girls registered for antenatal care with Ghana Health Service in 2020 was from the Ashanti region

It said adolescent girls spent more time doing household chores than boys, and the disparities increased as they get older.

Madam Anne-Claire Dufay, the UNICEF Representative in Ghana, said: “Adolescent girls have the potential to be the engines of their society. But only if they are given the opportunity."

“Investing in adolescent girls will have a ripple effect.

"They form an integral part of society and hold the potential to contribute to their present and future families and communities.

"It is imperative to prioritise their education, protection, health and well-being to not only fulfil their fundamental rights but also contribute to the peace, security and sustainable development of the entire country.”

The new publication also revealed that babies of adolescent mothers were at an increased risk of lower birth weight, pre-term delivery and severe neonatal conditions, malnutrition, and stunting in early childhood.

The report said many adolescent mothers might be forced to enter child marriage, which increases their risk of violence, and it might interrupt or curtail their learning.

It said marriage might also be viewed by some families as protecting girls from the social stigma that might result from having survived rape or sexual assault that led to an ‘undesired’ and ‘shameful’ pregnancy.

In order to see significant improvement in the lives of the three million adolescent girls in Ghana, UNICEF outlined clear measures within the publication.

It recommended an increase in the scale and reach of programmes and opportunities that would increase girls’ access to skills and information in the spheres of financial literacy and employability soft skills.