Ghana Education Service Official Stands Up for SRHR Education in Volta Region

Akoeh Joyce Yawa is a Circuit Supervisor for Ho Municipal Education office in the Volta Region of Ghana. She is inspired by a new Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) project introduced in some basic schools in the Municipality.

Joyce Yawa got pregnant while in college. She was not sure of what to do next. Joyce had two options; either to keep the pregnancy or abort it. Today, Joyce Yawa is advocating the introduction of comprehensive sexuality education at home and in school.

 Read her story.

“I am extremely excited that at long last, the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) project has been introduced in some basic schools in the Volta regional capital, Ho”, Akoeh Joyce Yawa remarked.

Akoeh Joyce Yawa is a Circuit Supervisor in the Ho Municipal Education office. She’s currently a member of the World Starts With Me (WSWM) regional monitoring committee team constituted by Savana Signatures.

Joyce was impressed with the programme’s goal that aims to contribute not only to the improvement of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people but to their social and economic development.

In Ghana, comprehensive SRHR education is not taught at home and in school because it is considered sensitive and not suitable for children below the ages of 18.

“I was not skeptical about the World Starts With Me (WSWM) programme when I first learnt of its goal”, she said.

What is the World Starts With Me (WSWM) programme? The WSWM is a computer-based, rights-based, Comprehensive Sexuality Education programme designed for in- and out-of-school youth between the ages of 12 and 19 years.

The programme adopted by Savana Signatures is being implemented in about 17 schools in Ghana. It was developed by Rutgers WPF in collaboration with Butterfly Works. It has a 14-leasson curriculum that combines SRHR education with learning IT skills and creative expression.

Joyce Yawa accepted to be part of the regional monitoring committee team of the WSWM project in the Ho Municipality after she deeply reflected over her ordeals as a teenager.

“I got pregnant while in college. I was considering abortion but my headteacher discouraged me”, she said. Abortion, she quoted the headteacher as saying was not safe. “Initially I didn’t want to discuss my sexuality with the headteacher I could be dismissed from school. But she stood by me”, she said.

Joyce Yawa dropped out of school to give birth and stayed for a year or more at home before going back to school. “If I was not determining, I would not have gone back to school again. Today I am a circuit supervisor with the Ghana Education Service”, she said.

Joyce Yawa endured the stigma and unhealthy comments when her pregnancy developed. “Children need to be taught how to properly say “No” to pre-marital sexual demands. You can’t imagine what these young girls are going through”, she said.

 “Young girls are frequently harassed sexually and so building their confidence to say “NO” will help reduce teenage pregnancy and the spread of Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs)”, she said.

Joyce said the WSWM programme is filling in the gap left by the Ghana Education Service (GES) curriculum on comprehensive sexuality education.

“GES textbooks do not contain Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). Based on this, teachers find it difficult to properly facilitate lessons related to sexuality education in class”, she said.

Joyce Yawa would always join the WSWM school clubs to undertake SRHR outreach programmes in the Ho Municipality. “I personally discuss SRHR issues with parents. I sometimes use my personal experience to illustrate why children particularly young girls need to be given this important information about their sexuality. I would have avoided what happened to me in college if I had this information contained in the WSWM curriculum”, she said.

Like many Ghanaian children, Joyce never received CSE in school or at home. “Young children have been making decisions that later affect their lives. We can help them out of this situation by providing them CSE”, she said.

“Some parents taught the programme is exposing their children to ‘immoral’ behaviours but I often tell them it is rather helping them to avoid such behaviours,” she said.

“The WSWM club members in schools now know how to say no to sexual demands and how to avoid rape and unintended pregnancy”, she said.

“Young children indulge in all forms of risky sexual activities.  It is better to educate them about their sexuality at home and in school than to allow them to make wrong decisions”, she said.

“This is the more reason why I am leading the crusade; just to inspire young people to take lessons about sexuality serious”, she said.

The WSWM project aims to contribute not only to the improvement of sexual and reproductive health of young people but also to their social and economic development.

Savana Signatures with funding from RFSU is implementing the WSWM project in the Northern and Volta regions of Ghana. The programme uses virtual peer educators to guide young people through a learning process to initiate sensitive discussions about sexuality.

The WSWM curriculum is a 14-lesson sexuality curriculum. Some of the topics include building self-esteem, exploring personal values and norms and gaining insight into one’s emotional and sexual development, among other topics.

It addresses issues relating to the social environment of young people such as their relationships with parents, friends and peers; gender equity; and sexual and reproductive health rights. Other topics focus on sexual health issues such as unintended pregnancy, STIs/HIV, AIDS stigma, sexual harassment and abuse while keeping a positive view on sexuality.