Egyeikrom, Ampain, Krisan and Fetentaa, Ghana, 05 December (UNHCR) -Adolescence is a critical period in the development of girls. It is a time of key transition which exposes particularly girls to sexual and gender based violence, teenage pregnancy, abuse, obstetric fistula and sexually transmitted diseases amongst others. If not properly managed, this stage has the potential to profoundly affect the girl child’s future potential and life outcomes. It is for this reason that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF have partnered with UNHCR, the UN Refugee agency to sensitize about 400 adolescent girls in four Refugee Camps in Ghana.
The project which is funded by Global Affairs, Canada is aimed at ensuring that adolescent girls both in and out of school are aware of their sexuality and empowered. The joint programme is scheduled to be executed from 2018-2020, and is targeting adolescent girls 10 -19 years in and out of school, married and unmarried as primary beneficiaries; and girls aged 20-24 years as secondary beneficiaries. Special attention will be given to vulnerable girls such as Kayayei
(migrant girls), girls with disabilities and girls in humanitarian situations (refugee camps). Dr. Claudia Donkor who is a Program Analyst for Reproductive Health and Humanitarian assistance with UNFPA Ghana noted that the idea was to train the refugee girls and get them to mentor other girls in the camp. She said “refugee girls were often not thought of but we want to ensure they are covered on this project and equally empowered. We don’t want to leave anyone behind” she concluded. The training for the refugee girls in the camps which also included some youth from the refugee host communities is to help ensure the girls know about their sexual and reproductive health rights, have information on sexual and gender based violence prevention as well as establish referral points for addressing human rights abuses.
Ms. Dorcas Manortey from the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), who was a facilitator, talked to the girls about the menstrual cycle and personal hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy amongst others. She said a lot of young women have misconceptions about the transition from adolescence to womanhood, the changes that occur and how to manage such changes. She indicated it was a good opportunity for the girls to be well informed as this empowers them and subsequently helps ensure such cases are reduced.
Girls need to be aware they have a right not to be touched if they don’t want to and also to know who or where to report to should such incidents happen
Sergeant Malaika Jibril Alhassan of the Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service took the girls through what they are to do as precautionary measures in order for them not to fall victim to sexual and gender based violence. He says the law protects children and adolescents against risks situations associated with sexual sex. He believed the training was very useful for the girls, especially at this stage of their lives.
National Health Officer for UNHCR Ghana, Ms Juliana Owusu urged the girls to make good use of the training and encouraged them to approach the SGBV Communal Volunteers in the camp when they have any adolescence related issues.
Some of the beneficiaries shared their experiences about the training
Nioule Kea, 14 year old indicated that for her the subject about rape is what really excited her. According to her, she has learnt about rape and measures to take to avoid it. “If you get raped and the one who raped you tells you that you will die if you report, don’t listen to the person. You will rather die if you do not report” she says. “We are supposed to report such incidents to our parents or teachers and not be afraid to tell their names to ensure such bad people are punished”
For 11 year old Urielle Gbogboo from Egyeikrom Camp, she has learnt how to say no to sex and how to take care of herself when menstruation comes.
Some urban refugee girls are expected to benefit from a similar training soon.