The Western Regional Directorate of the Department of Gender under the auspices of the Western Regional Coordinating Council (WRCC) has organised the first mentorship and girls’ empowerment summit for some selected girls in the region.
The three-day event, with support from the United Nations Population Fund, drew participants from the four municipal and district assemblies, made up of Ahanta West, Nzema East, Amenfi East and Wassa East.
Participants shared their expectations and discussed adolescent reproductive health, sexuality, teenage pregnancy, sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage and also spent some time with elderly gender advocates.
In an interview with the Ghanaian Times at the event on Thursday, the acting Regional Director, Department of Gender, Ms Maribel Okine, explained that women and girls’ empowerment were critical to development, “because that segment of society in the world, today, lacked control over their lives and future.”
She said evidence had proven that girls were exposed to challenges related to their physical and mental health, body image and self-esteem including universal barriers that could negatively impact their personal growth and development.
“The Western Region was scored 19 per cent on teenage (adolescent) pregnancy by the 2017 Maternal Health Survey; 23 per cent was also scored on child marriage in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in (2017/2018),” she said.
Ms Okine revealed that information from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service in the region indicated that, there were 136 non-maintenance, 65 defilements, four rape and 181 assault cases reported in 2018.
She said that “on a daily basis, girls deal with issues related to their physical and mental health, body image, gender and self-esteem. Though most are healthy, significant number of adolescents die prematurely due to accidents, violence, pregnancy-related complications and other illnesses, that are either preventable or treatable. Many more suffer chronic ill-health and disability. In addition, many serious diseases in adulthood have their roots in adolescence.”
Ms Okine argued for the empowering of every girl to believe in herself, and hoped that mentoring could be a valuable means of providing support and reinforcing their self-esteem.
A Programme Officer of the UNFPA in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation, Eric Appiah Okrah, mentioned that the event aimed at improving the knowledge of participants on sexual issues and equality, explaining, however, that the education would not target only girls, but also the boys and men because teenage pregnancy “is not one-sided.”
The Western Regional Director of Department of Children, Faustina Yorke Awortwi, told the girls: “Believe in yourselves. We are all equal. We should not allow traditions and culture to hold us back. You should be bold and confident.”
FROM CLEMENT ADZEI BOYE, SEKONDI