The Upper West Regional Youth Parliament is calling on the government to introduce a free-sanitary pad policy for adolescent girls, particularly in the rural areas to help curb promiscuity and teenage pregnancies.
The call was made after a study on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) in the Wa East District revealed that 83 per cent of adolescent-girl respondents in the study said they engaged in pre-marital sex in order to get money for sanitary pads.
The study which was conducted in April and May, this year with 300 respondents, also revealed that 41 per cent of the girls who engaged in unprotected sex became pregnant, and ended up as teenage mothers who were sometimes forced into early marriages.
Speaking to the Ghanaian Times on Sunday about the study, the Speaker of the Youth Parliament, Mr James Baba Anabiga said with funding from Plan International Ghana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the study sought to among other things assess the state of ASRH in the district and also examine the role of parents, the assembly, members of parliament and other stakeholders in ASRH.
“So we have 83 per cent of adolescent girls engaging in pre-marital sex for basic needs such as sanitary pad because according to the study over 57 per cent of parents and guardians had reneged on their responsibilities towards their children partly due to ignorance and poverty”, he said.
He explained that poverty played a major part in parents reneging on their responsibilities, and also accounted for reasons adolescent girls fell on men for their needs in exchange for sex.
The speaker was worried that the trend would affect education of adolescent girls in the area if action was not taken immediately to halt the menace, and recommended that the government absorbed the cost of sanitary pads for adolescent girls in poor, deprived and rural communities.
“In a decade where we are preaching universal approach to development given the Sustainable Development Goals, we cannot live adolescent girls behind. ASRH issues should be given adequate attention with the necessary funding in order to help influence positively, the sexual behaviour of girls in the Wa East District,” he said.
Mr Anabiga said majority of the respondents expressed that they would be glad if the district assembly and the office of the Member of Parliament assisted young girls with sanitary pads in a bid to reduce promiscuity and teenage pregnancies.
“The study also recommended combined efforts of all stakeholders to step up education on ASRN to sensitise them to premarital sex and sexually transmitted infections,” he said.
He also appealed to NGOs such as Plan Ghana, and international donors working in the district to lead the advocacy and petition to demand budgetary allocations for ASRN programmes and activities by the government.
According to the Speaker, the study purposively selected the Wa East District was reportedly one of the areas with high incidence of early and unprotected sex by adolescents, who ended up with unplanned and teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions as well as sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
FROM LYDIA DARLINGTON FORDJOUR, WA