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Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tackling poverty by educating the Youth about Safe Choices



Education is a basic human right and it is the key to the success of the youth in our society. Since the right of access to education must be an all-inclusive affair irrespective of one’s gender, religion or socio-cultural difference, the education of the girl child must be taken seriously. Fathers in the rural northern region of Ghana still have the traditional perception that the office of the girl child is basically the kitchen. But things have changed and today our girls can go to school and acquire knowledge in various areas of study.

Jill and Sala interacting with female pupils of Tawfikiya School
RAINS (the local NGO we are based at) championed the cause in making the girl child education a success by helping in the establishment of Tamale Girls Senior High School. With the establishment of this school, more girls are able to complete senior high school and continue to attain higher education. 

Investing in the education of the girl child is the single most effective way of reducing poverty in the Northern region of Ghana.Yet girl child education remains elusive due to the issue of teenage pregnancy. 


Teenage pregnancy and poverty in Ghana

In Ghana, according to the Ghana Health Service (2012), about 750,000 teenage girls between the ages of 15 to 19 get pregnant annually. Since teenage mothers are less likely to finish junior high school and more likely to live in poverty, they are also more likely to depend on the public for assistance. This means that the aim of empowering the girl child is falling to pieces because majority of them drop out of school and continue to live in poverty hence the cycle of poverty continues.
 
Boys  listening with rapt attention to a presentation
The cycle of poverty will never end if teenage girls continue to drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy. For this reason, one of our projects, Safe Choices, aims to increase young adults’ knowledge about contraceptive methods and abstinence, preparing them to make careful decisions about sex when the time comes. Researches have clearly shown that comprehensive sex education programmes are the only means that show positive results. Teens that are exposed to sex education delay having sex, usually have less sex partners and are more likely to use contraceptives if having sex (advocatesforyouth.org).

‘Safe Choices’ project

As part of this project we have held sessions in schools running summer classes in Tamale metro namely Tawfikiya Islamic primary school, Tuasunia Primary school and Ticheli primary school. As the age of pupils attending primary school varies, primary school children are a target for our intervention as many of them are teenagers.
 
A teacher demonstrating how to put on a male condom
Awareness is being created in these schools about abstinence and contraceptive use for both boys and girls. The boys are very much aware that getting a girl pregnant is not only the responsibility of the girl but also that of the boys as most boys also drop out of school to work and take care of the girl and the baby. It was interesting to find out that all the children we interacted with wanted to be in school because they wanted to be doctors, teachers, pilots, nurses and so on in the future. They also pointed out issues that could hinder one’s educational success which very much included teenage pregnancy. 

International Service volunteers at RAINS ran these Safe Choices sessions, educating boys and girls on the effects of teenage pregnancy and also on how to avoid this issue. The students were also shown samples of contraceptives (focusing on condoms as these also prevent the transmission of HIV/STD’s) and also taught how to use them if they fail to abstain. Particular teachers at the schools were provided with supplies of condoms and local advice numbers for the children if they disclosed being particularly at risk of teenage pregnancy.
 
Raqeebah and Jill interacting with girls
Misconceptions about contraceptives were cleared. We have discovered that people believe that being on the pill for a long time will make it harder for a woman to get pregnant later, they also have the misconception that it causes cancer. With our intervention we were able to educate and clear this misconception. News of contraceptives use was not usually welcome in the communities but now that the misconceptions have been cleared the people have welcomed this contraceptive program at their schools so that students are taught the right method of contraceptive use. Since this is so welcomed at the community we hope there will be less incidence of teenage pregnancy and children will be able to access better education to have brighter future.



Rafiq.