Mrs Ellen Darkoa Asare, Eastern Regional Head, Reproductive Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service, says denying adolescents of family planning services would cause more harm than good considering the growing teenage pregnancies countrywide.
She said making family planning services available to teenagers helped to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which often send pregnant teenage girls out of school and further push them into child marriages.
Such denial also could force the young girls, who become pregnant, into using dangerously unorthodox methods and concoctions to cause abortions, which often lead to fatalities.
Mrs Asare was speaking in reaction to some public observation that family planning would promote promiscuity among adolescents. This was at a symposium in Koforidua organised by the National Population Council to mark the World Population Day in Eastern Region.
Speaking on the topic, “Prioritizing Reproductive Health Services for Women and Girls in the Eastern Region,” she noted that abortion was not a family planning method and warned that having abortion frequently put one at risk.
She also cautioned against continuous use of emergency contraceptive pills.
She noted that many people shunned family Planning services due to several reasons including religious and cultural beliefs resulting in low coverage and pointed out that family Planning was not just about preventing pregnancies but it also assisted couples in childbearing.
Mr Isaac T.Sopelle, Regional Director of National Population Council said the national theme: “Prioritizing Reproductive health is an answer to Rights and Choices,”’ was to draw attention to the need to make reproductive health services a right available to all, especially women and girls.
He said women’s choice with regards to reproductive health rights was fundamental to sustainable development and therefore imperative for women to have the right to be informed and have access to safe, effective, affordable, and acceptable family planning methods of their choice.
“However, access to these Reproductive health information and services are mostly unavailable, especially for adolescents and young people,” he added.
He said where these services were even available, numerous challenges such as distance and unfriendly attitude of service providers and stigmatisation made it difficult for easy accessibility and patronage.
He attributed that to rooted gender-based discriminations and that it was high-rise women and girls who were empowered to challenge the barriers to be able to access reproductive health rights in tune with human rights conventions.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), unless women and girls have access to quality and affordable healthcare, freely exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights, are treated and respected as equals, it will be difficult for the 2030 agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved.
Ms Juliana Abbey Quaye, Eastern Regional Director of the Department of Gender said the right to make informed choices on reproductive and sexual rights called for concerted efforts from both men and women to shift from age-long perceptions and stereotypes.
She said the right to make choices was key in empowering women and girls to bridge the gender gap and to ensure that girls had access to education for a better future and to be able to contribute meaningfully to national development.
Mr Bright Neku, Eastern Regional Director of Ghana Statistical Service said in ensuring the empowerment of girls and women it was important for men to change their mentality and posture towards gender equality since achieving that goal would mean a better place for all.