Parents and guardians have been charged to uphold their roles in ensuring that the incidence of teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the Upper West Region is reduced to the barest minimum.
Speaking at a youth-led advocacy meeting at the Wa Municipal Assembly hall, Programmes Officer at the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mr Nurideen Moomin, said the negligence of parents to take care of their children should be blamed for the increasing numbers of pregnancies among adolescent girls and teen marriages in the region. He disclosed that there are instances where parents force their children to marry a man against their will simply because they got pregnant for the man. He cautioned parents to desist from such acts as that only go to worsen the situation of the teenager.
Citing the Wa West District as an example, Mr. Moomin said parents are the reason available laws and bylaws are difficult to implement. He noted that bylaws on teenagers attending funerals in the district are not effective because parents take their adolescent children along with them to the funerals. “They set up bylaws to prevent the younger ones from going to funerals and especially spending days. After saying and agreeing to whatever, the individual decides what he or she wants. So the parent is going to the funeral asking the child to follow him or her to the funeral grounds. So who are you to prevent them?” The NCCE Officer lamented.
Mr. Moomin also disclosed that young boys in the Wa West District are using a charm called “forget” to lure teenage girls into sleeping with them. This he said is a special case and if not worked on, the menace of teenage pregnancy will continue to be on the ascendancy. The Programmes Officer at the NCCE therefore called on parents and guardians to watch over their children especially teenage girls closely. He said it is not enough to ensure the child is home, as she could be engaged in negative activities using the phone or other electronic materials.
On her part, Mary Agyare, a public health nurse at the Upper West Regional Health Directorate, cautioned teenagers against engaging in premarital activities and urged them to take good care of their bodies. Madam Mary noted that at the adolescent age, there is always a strong urge to engage in negative sexual activities out of curiosity especially when friends talk about them.
The Public Health Nurse cited drug abuse, alcohol, peer pressure among others as some of the factors causing unwanted pregnancies which lead to early marriages. She therefore advised adolescents to avoid alcohol, drug abuse and peer influence so that they do not engage in premature sex which will ruin their lives. She further encouraged the youth to avoid unprotected sex to prevent themselves from contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and also to embrace the use of contraceptives when they are unable to abstain from sexual activities.
The nurse who spoke on Adolescent Reproductive Health, told parents to become friends with their children. She opined that if the child sees the parent as a friend, “what ever that goes on in their life they will tell you.” She continued that “they will not be curious to go and try sex without you even being aware of it. No matter how close they go to their peers, they will still come back and confide in you”.
Madam Mary Agyare also called for economic empowerment for women since that will go a long way to curbing the menace of teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the region. She said researches indicate that “when women are empowered and they are working, it ends the cycle of poverty [and] ends child marriages.” The nurse lauded the role of NGOs in the Upper West region towards women empowerment, and called on all stakeholders to contribute their quota towards empowering women. Madam Mary was also of the opinion that the Free SHS policy introduced by government is also a positive initiative in the fight against teenage pregnancies and child marriages. She said where the girl child is able to continue her education after the Junior High School level she will by all means become of age by the time she completed Senior High School.
The forum organized by the National Youth Authority – Upper West, and Plan International Ghana intended to educate the public especially the youth on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Child Marriage. Participants at the forum included Junior High and Senior High school children, youth groups, queen mothers, and the media.