NEITHER teenage pregnancy nor child marriage has been recorded in the Elmina Zongo community in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem (KEEA) municipality of the Central Region for the past decade.
The feat is as a result of collaborative efforts by the community leaders led by the Chief Imam in the community, Sheik Yahaya Shafiq, who has over the period monitored to ensure that the two practices, did not occur.
Sheik Shafiq shared the success story with a delegation from UNFPA and UNICEF on Tuesday at a meeting with religious leaders as part of a three-day tour to assess a three-year joint programme ongoing in the municipality and in 35 districts across the country.
The ‘Empowering Adolescent Girls through Improved Access to Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) and Rights-Based Quality Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) Services in Ghana programme’, started last year, is funded by the Canadian government.
Outlining measures accounting for the feat, Sheikh Shafiq said he intervened if hinted of attempts by parents to give their under-aged children up for marriage, while he had refused to officiate marriages involving under-aged children.
He said education on teenage pregnancy and child marriage featured often on sermons at the mosque and interaction with community members, to drum home the repercussions of the two practices on the victims’ future.
He said Islam frowned on both teenage pregnancy and child marriage, adding that he would not watch on for those practices to occur, knowing well that they were detrimental to the future of the victims and society.
He commended the UNFPA and UNICEF for the various programmes they have rolled out in the municipality, through which members of the community were being educated on sexual health to inform their decisions.
The Treasurer of the Elmina Local Council of Churches and a pastor at Victory Bible Church, Rev. Albert Sam, said steps were being taken to mainstream sexual health education into Sunday School curriculum, as part of the role of the church is awareness creation.
Mr Niyi Ojuolape, UNFPA Country Representative, urged the community to continue pursuing measures to remove barriers from the path of adolescent girls and help them achieve their full potential.
He said UNFPA was committed to the various programmes ongoing across the country due to the critical roles girls could play in nation building if given the needed support.
For UNICEF Country Representative, Ms Anne-Claire Dufay and the Director of Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission, Mr Christian Tandif, empowerment of girls should be the priority of all.
The team earlier visited the Cape Coast School for the Deaf and Blind, where through the UNFPA/UNICEF programme, the students were being helped to open up on their sexual health needs for timely redress.
FROM JONATHAN DONKOR, ELMINA