In a recent report by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), it has been revealed that a staggering number of girls in Ghana, particularly in the Volta Region, are affected by child marriage and adolescent pregnancy. According to data from the 2021 Population and Housing Census, approximately 79,733 girls aged 12 to 17 are either married or living in unions with men. Shockingly, out of this figure, 25,999 girls fall within the junior high school-going age group of 12 to 14 years.
The Volta Region stands out as a concerning hotspot, with one out of every four girls being married or in a union before turning 18. The gravity of the situation becomes more apparent when considering the data from the GHS District Health Information Management System (DHIMS), which recorded over 6,000 pregnancies among girls between 2020 and 2021 alone.
Tragically, the region also grapples with a high incidence of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service reported 1,058 cases in 2020, compared to 809 and 687 cases in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Notably, defilement incidents accounted for 230 cases, while other offenses included threats of death, assault, rape, abduction, and non-maintenance.
These concerning trends reveal the vulnerability of adolescent girls in the Volta Region. They face the loss of their right to education and a healthy childhood, along with exposure to early unprotected sexual activities. The repercussions of sexual and gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy, and child marriage extend to serious reproductive health and economic consequences, such as unsafe abortions, malnutrition, obstructed births, obstetric fistula, and sexually transmitted infections. Moreover, these issues contribute to school dropout rates and perpetuate intergenerational poverty.
To address this critical situation, stakeholders are being urged to intensify efforts to reduce adolescent pregnancies in the Volta Region. The Director of the Department of Gender in the region, Thywill Eyra Kpe, stressed the need for comprehensive education and empowerment on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, as well as gender-based violence. Efforts should also focus on providing a safe space for adolescents to express their fears and concerns and ensuring the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
In an attempt to tackle these challenges, a one-day Campus Conversation, known as “Camp Convo,” was organized at Vakpo Senior High School. The event empowered students to become assertive, build confidence, and support one another when faced with difficulties. It served as a platform for honest discussions on issues such as adolescent sexual and reproductive health, child marriage, gender equality, and sexual and gender-based violence.
The prevalence of adolescent pregnancies, despite the national target of 11.5 percent, remains a significant challenge in the district. Public Health Nurse Hilda Kotoh emphasized the necessity of a multi-stakeholder approach, addressing factors like poor parental control and the absence of positive role models.
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