Madam Matilda Banfro, the Acting Greater Accra Regional Director, Department of Gender, has called for the education of girls on their Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
She said the education would empower the girls and reduce their vulnerability to Gender-Based Violence, discrimination, harmful practices, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM).
Madam Banfro made the call at a mentorship programme organised by the Department of Gender with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Canadian Government for 70 adolescent girls at Amamomo in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
The programme was to reorient and sensitise the girls on issues such as Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) to empower them to reduce their risks of CEFM.
It was also to provide them with the tools necessary to fully participate in the society, claim their rights, and make informed and healthy decisions about their lives.
Research from the World Bank and Plan International show that educated girls and women are better able to make decisions, choices and are less likely to accept domestic violence.
The Acting Regional Director said the adolescence period was a critical time in a girl’s life to develop knowledge and skills, learn to manage emotions and relationships and acquire attributes and abilities necessary for enjoying the adolescent years and assuming adult roles.
However, Madam Banfro noted that young people lacked comprehensive knowledge on their sexuality, reproductive health and rights, hence, they faced difficulties in making decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behaviours, which could hinder the realisation of their goals
She said evidence had shown that girls were particularly susceptible to challenges related to their physical and mental health, body image and self-esteem but many girls faced systemic barriers that could negatively impact their personal growth and development.
Madam Gloria Kankam, the Coordinator of Girls Empowerment, WilDAF-Ghana, noted that SGBV, which strangers, family members, work colleagues, partners and friends could perpetuate, had dire effects on victims such as disability, unwanted pregnancies, STIs and death.
She said domestic violence, comprising physical, emotional, sexual, emotional and psychological actions or threats of actions were one of the commonest forms of violence against girls and women.
Madam Kankam urged girls to report acts of SGBV against them, including rape, sexual harassment to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support (DOVVSU), Social Welfare, Adolescent Corners in public hospitals and polyclinics and Non-Governmental Organisations.
She said those institutions could assist victims of SGBV legally, medically and psychosocially.
Madam Sheila Serwaa Ayiripe, a Senior Nursing Officer, Accra Metro Health Directorate, attributed higher risk of health problems such as unsafe abortions, anemia, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and mental disorders to teenage pregnancy.
Therefore, she advised girls to abstain from sex, use family planning methods including correct and consistent use of condoms and pills to prevent it.
Madam Ayiripe noted that pregnant adolescents often became school dropouts, consequently reducing their chances of employability, which could lead to long-term economic implications
Mrs Akua Dufie Winful, Accra Metro Girl Child Coordinator, said girls’ education was the solution to behavioural change, women empowerment and economic development.
She said it was sometimes referred to as the “social vaccine” against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) because there was a direct link between girls who stayed in school and its significant reduction.