Sogakope, March 16, GNA - The UNFPA and UNICEF have pledged their continuous support to help end child marriage in Ghana and ensure that young girls stay in school to complete their studies.
To them young girls of school going age must be helped to delay age at marriage and child bearing to enable them to complete their education.
To ensure this, UNPFA is partnering with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG) to implement an integrated safe space model known as SISTA Initiative in two districts of the Volta Region.
UNICEF is also partnering the Department of Social Welfare, the Girls Education Office, the Department of Community Development and Seek to Save Foundation, a local Non Governmental Organisation to provide a second chance education for young mothers.
Ms Satvika Chalassani of the Technical Division of the UNFPA Headquarters in New York, said this when she paid a courtesy call on the Chief of Fievie Dugame and the elders of the South Tongu District in the Volta Region as part of a working visit to Sogakope to acquaint herself with the SISTA Initiative.
She commended PPAG for the initiative which is helping the girls to delay their age of marriage and child bearing.
The initiative is anchored on Ghana’s Adolescent Reproductive and Health Policy which outlines a package to reduce the vulnerability of girls to teenage pregnancy and galvanise relevant stakeholders and community actors to collaborate to end child marriage.
The UNFPA and UNICEF team was made up of the Steering Committee of the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage which was in the Ghana for its first meeting.
The SISTA Initiative is a model implemented in the Central, Volta, Ashanti, Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions.
Through the initiative, a total of 32,246 adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 years have been reached, with about 10 per cent either being married or cohabitating at the start of the project.
It provides a platform for young girls, aged 10 to 19, to be empowered with health and socio-economic assets to ensure they fulfil their potentials.
UNFPA and UNICEF are implementing a multi-stakeholder programme to accelerate action to end child marriage in 12 countries, including Ghana with about 88 per cent of the beneficiary communities being rural.
It is being supported by Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Commission.
Torgbe Ayite Awaga IV, the Chief of Fievie Dugama, commended UNFPA and UNICEF for funding the project and expressed worry about the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the district.
He attributed the high school dropout, cohabitation, forced marriages, no livelihood skills and overall disempowerment of the adolescent girl to teenage pregnancy, adding that the introduction of the SISTAS clubs would help address the challenges members face and empower the girls with information on sexual and reproductive health as well as services.
He said the initiative had also provided the platform for traditional leaders, opinion leaders and parent to engage on various issues affecting adolescents.
“As traditional leaders we are supporting the SISTAS initiative by participating in stakeholder review meetings, mobilising parents and community members for advocacy and educational sessions, creating an enabling environment for the girls to access sexual and reproductive health information and services as well as addressing human rights issues.”
Ms Erika Goldson, the Acting UNFPA Representative in Ghana, noted that the UN Agency would intensify its collaboration with the district to address the challenges identified.
Mrs Jemima Apedo, the District Coordinating Director, expressed the commitment of the district to ensure that the girls stayed in school despite their financial challenges and commended the stakeholders for their support in ensuring that the young girls stayed in school.
Ms Sefakor Fummey, the Assistant Planning Officer of the South Tongu District Assembly, said the district had a large youthful population and a high dependency ratio, which had resulted in poverty pushing the young girls into sexual relationships to fend for themselves.
The project has covered 1,385 girls in the district with 41 girls being trained in beaded jewellery production, professional driving and soap making and 622 girls empowered in public speaking and reading skills.
Again, 40 victims of child marriage had been identified and six were supported to go back to school in 2016 with additional 34 to be supported by the assembly to return to school this year.
She called for the sustenance of the programme to help end teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion, child marriage and school dropout.
Beneficiaries of the initiative exhibited their products to the admiration of the team and performed cultural display to entertain them.
Ms Meike Vogels of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands, commended the project beneficiaries for their resolve to improve their lives.
She called on the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and the local stakeholders to ensure that the products produced by the young girls were marketed to earn them some income.