Kpetoe, the Agotime-Ziope District capital, is noted for Ghana’s king of cloths – Kente.
High quality Ewe Kente weaving is a major attraction for the community, near the Togo border, placing its Kente festival (Agbamevoza) on Ghana’s tourism calender.
The small town, “built around Kente”, attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists every year for the Agbamevorza and gradually becoming the tourist destination for the Volta Region.
A worrying spectacle, however, is the increasing number of teenage mothers in the relatively small community.
Child marriage is slowly being entrenched in the traditional set-up, with girls impressed upon to marry whoever gets them pregnant, many of them, dropping out of school as a result.
Last year, a total of 181 teenage pregnancies were recorded in the District, representing 16.64 per cent of ANC registrations.
Between January and June this year, a total of 72 teenage pregnancies have been recorded in the District, representing 16.82 per cent of ANC registrations.
Madam Happy Tsifokor, the District Director of Education, says these pregnancies have taken 26 girls out of the classroom from January last year to March this year.
She says due to the Directorate’s “Back to School” campaign, a few are back to school, but indications are that, a chunk of the girls had dropped out of school long ago at the primary level and are into kente weaving and petty trading.
Apart from the effects on school enrolment, there are reports of stillbirths, illegal abortions with complications of umbilical cord prolapse and excessive bleedings.
Unconfirmed reports say some teenagers had lost their lives through childbirth complications because there is no District hospital in the area.
The girls are, therefore, unable to travel to Ho, the Regional Capital for health services when given referrals by clinics and health centres in the District.
The Kpetoe Clinic Maternity Unit is also in a deplorable state with badly leaking roofs, discouraging pregnant women, especially teens from visiting the facility.
Family Planning in homes
These have compelled the District Health Directorate to take family planning services to homes in the communities, Mr Mathew Ayamba Adam, the District Director of Health Services, says.
As has been the case for years, teenagers are unwilling to visit health facilities for family planning services, some, due to lack of transportation and others, apprehension.
A few people, reportedly, visit the facilities very early in the morning or very late at night for such services but are whimsical.
Consequently, health workers in the District have devised a strategy to take the services to teenagers in their homes.
“It is a regular house-to-house campaign for us. We do it as part of our usual home visit activities. We go with family planning services and items like condoms etc and reach out to young people after counselling,” Mr Adam says.
He says the strategy is fast catching up with young girls, especially, who are welcoming and appear to be enjoying the counselling sessions.
The Director says a few girls have formed clubs out of such sessions and helping to educate other teens on family planning.
Precious, 17, one of the young girls, says, “I’m very happy they are coming to our homes because I couldn’t have gone there for family planning. My boyfriend doesn’t want to use condom but now, I know how to protect myself.”
Serwa Agbeve, an 18-year-old single mother, who had dropped out of school and selling in the local market, says a short term family planning services she went in for, saved her from “another difficult pregnancy.”
“The labour pain was too much for my first pregnancy and I bled too much. I’m just happy they are coming around and I’m advising young girls and guys to protect themselves to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” she says.
Abu Manauf, a commercial motorcycle rider, in his early 20s, says he’s never used condom but has no regrets using it the first time after he was introduced to it and given a quantity by health workers on home visits.
“That time, I didn’t buy abortion pill and my girl was not in pains because I used condom. Sometimes, when they use the pill, they feel so much pain,” he says.
The ‘beat’ is on. It is sounding so good, so far, with behaviours changing gradually with better health outcomes to stop the vicious poverty cycle in the Kente rich town.
But, it is time to beckon parents, religious and traditional leaders to join the campaign and rid the District of unwanted pregnancies.
Dr. Leticia Appiah, the Executive Director of the National Population Council, says Ghana’s failure to aggressively tackle issues of teenage pregnancy is entrench ING the poverty cycle in the country.
“Neglecting the problem not only adds numbers but entrenches the poverty cycle among the numbers thereby creating more poorer people who contribute less to national development but who consume more in all social sectors.”