Since August, state and private actors across the globe have been gathering as part of the ‘Global Forum for Adolescent 2023’ which is supported by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) non-profit, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), the largest alliance for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being.
The programme which climaxed on 11-12 October, was complemented with various national and regional level events to promote adolescent and youth well-being and address critical challenges. A national event was held in Ghana by the Ghana Health Service (Family Health Division and Adolescent Health and Development) and an African regional event by Dataking Research Lab of Dataking Consulting.
On 26th September, over 500 young voices gathered to advocate for adolescent well-being as part of the #1point8 Billion campaign. In the process, the government’s commitment for adolescents and the youth was rehashed.
Also, on 6th October, over 1,000 youth from Ghana and other African countries gathered in a remote event to discuss how cyber-insecurity, climate poverty and mental health problems affect adolescents and youth, proffering the means by which the challenges can be addressed.
As a research-focused youth event, it was fully led by young voices and livestreamed on Youtube under the theme “Cyber-insecurity, Mental Health, and Climate Poverty for a Resilient Adolescent and Youthful Future”. The main speakers included Mr Courage Ahorlu-Dzage, the Regional Health Coordinator of the Mental Health Authority, Mr Wise Delight Duho, Research Manager of Dataking Research Lab, and Mr Samuel Akpabli, Project Manager at Eco-Africa. The event was moderated by Mrs Rhoda Ladjer Akuaku, Sustainability Associate at Dataking Consulting, and Miss Anna Elorm Kataboh, Medical Student at the University for Development Studies. The panellists discussed various root causes, effects and practical challenges that adolescents and youth persistently face.
First of all, Mr Ahorlu-Dzage explained how fast the issues of mental health disorders keep rising and how these issues are affecting adolescents and the youth with little effort from the government and even parents to support or help them overcome these challenges. He also argued that family dysfunctions on the part of the parents, bullying in schools and unemployment after school are the major contributing factors to mental health disorders among the youth. He suggested that there should be a national investment in youth mentorship programs to curb the problems by promoting and protecting the rights of young adults.
Also, Mr Duho shared insights on cyber insecurity among the youth and the danger it poses to the general community or society at large. In his talk, Mr Duho shared that as we get more connected to the world through the internet, it leaves us vulnerable, especially in keeping privacy. He posited that this is something especially difficult for the youth to do as compared to the aged as the youth tend to expose almost everything concerning their lives to the public, usually for acceptance or what they refer to as “likes”. This, he said, makes them prone to the tendency of cyberbullying which affects them mentally.
Additionally, Mr Akpabli in tackling climate poverty also noted that the youth are the most vulnerable people to be affected by issues of climate change. He indicated that one of Africa’s major economic activities is agriculture. However, there are issues such as the distortion of rain patterns which pose danger to agricultural activities unless investment to address climate risks are carried out. He suggested a call for the youth to engage in income-generating economic activities to decrease climate poverty and increase productivity among the youth. This, he claimed, would aid in enhancing the well-being of the youth.
All the panellists also raised concerns specifically about the roles of the family in combating these challenges faced by the youth. They concluded that the family does little to nothing in supporting the youth as the high demand for economic activities tends to set them miles away from their children. Thus, when adolescents are faced with challenges that need to be heard and advised on, the family is not available to give their support. This, the panellists said, exposes young adults to boredom, anxiety and depression which may lead to several unhealthy choices such as drug abuse and risky sexual behaviours.
The key takeaway from this event is that governments in Africa need to provide continuous support towards adolescents and youth well-being. They also noted the need for evidence-based policy-making and a multidimensional development focus to drive resilient adolescent growth. The panellists again argued that the family plays a major role in shaping, supporting and enhancing the mental well-being of young adults.