The Planned Parenthood Association Ghana (PPAG) has urged young boys to take up protective roles against sexual and gender-based violence in their communities.
The not-for-profit organisation is pursuing behavioural change on sexual and reproductive health and rights in selected communities in the country under a five-year programme by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with support from the Global Affairs Canada.
The project had recognised the need to bring boys into the mix of efforts against rising sexual abuse, child pregnancies and marriages, and make of them adolescent champions with positive peer influences, who would lead the protection of sexual rights.
Mr Ismael Selassie, a Programme Analyst of the UNFPA, addressing a training programme organised by the PPAG for young boys at Adidome in the Central Tongu District of the Volta Region, said women required dedicated commitment to preserving their worth, and that teen boys were in the best position to guide young girls through adolescence to fruitful adulthood.
He said despite relentless efforts, progress continued to be limited, and that it was time to get young boys to understand the role of women in society and take up the challenge to help safeguard their future to benefit all.
Mr Selassie said young boys should consider the reputation attached to adolescent championship and avoid temptations.
“We want you to become ambassadors of good behaviour among boys and girls so that we can protect women. We want you to be the people, who will stop the wrong things and ensure the right thing is done.”
“Treating women bad doesn’t make you a strong person,” he said, asking boys to help educate their sisters, families and friends on the tricks of the trade of sexual predators.
He also advised against the practice of accepting money and gifts from predators to facilitate the abuse of young girls and called on the boys to advise young girls to stay out of trouble.
The meeting was attended by 17 young boys, including students, commercial motor riders, and unemployed, drawn from the six operational communities of the PPAG in the Tongu districts including New Bakpa, Addidome, Mafi Adidokpui, Aveyime, and Kpogede.
Ms Gifty Kukubor, the District Head of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, led the boys to understand the various aspects of sexual violence and the laws around them.
She drew their attention to the zero compromise on cases of sexual defilement, saying they were considered “unique and very delicate.”
Ms Kukubor noted how sexual orgies, and incidents of teacher-student sexual abuse were common in the communities but said the law had been active in taking out the culprits.
She expressed the hope that the initiative to engage young boys would help bring about the needed change, saying her unit was being inundated with cases of sexual abuse and violence.
Ms Kukubor cautioned against emotional violence, which she said linked to most blood pressure, mental imbalance, and broken heartedness among women, and must also form the focus of adolescent champions.
She urged the champions to help spread positive behavioural change, saying such commitment rewarded with trust from the community.
Mama Hodzige II, Central Tongu Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), said abstinence remained the best option to preventing teenage pregnancies and safeguarding future of the youth, and called on adolescent youths could channel lustful energies into more productive endeavours.
She encouraged them to consider the will to abstain from early sex an act of brevity and pride and said adolescent champions would need to put on positive self-esteem.
A resource person from the local health directorate spoke to the youths on drug and substance abuse and prevention, and which had been known to fuel lustful adventures among some in the communities.
Abraham Kumah, a public health officer, at the district Health Directorate, took the participants through mental health challenges, and encouraged them to train their minds to resist urges to do drugs.
Kenneth Atsu Goka, Project Officer of the PPAG, “there are so many linkages between drugs and sexual abuse”, and, therefore, the youth must arm with shields of self-esteem and assertiveness.
He said it would be important for them to build confidence by identifying weaknesses and strengths and develop the needed communication skills for respectful and assertive coexistence.
Mr Christopher Mankam, PPAG Field Officer in the District, said the training, named “Adolescent Boys Champions in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” had become necessary as sexual and reproductive health challenges kept rising in the communities despite consistent focus on girls for behavioral change.
He said the engagement would expose them to the impacts of early pregnancies and marriages, and sexual related diseases, and that the PPAG and stakeholders hoped that the adolescent champions would spread the cause of protecting girls across the communities.
“The champions will be educated on the right action to take in such situations and will be empowered to speak out,” Mr. Mankam said.
The Tongu areas are among the most notable for incidences of child pregnancy and early marriages. As a result, the PPAG’s range of activities there includes community engagements, and parent-child dialogues.
The Association also runs “sister’s clubs” of mostly teen girls that educate on reproductive and sexual health and rights, and which is aiding significantly address sexual treatment in the areas.
Through the clubs, the PPAG supports some teen mothers return to school and provides skills training to help sustain their livelihood.