Curiosity teaches lesson. This is exactly what happened to Pwavra Pearl, at age 14; peer influence pushed her to indulge in pre-marital sex. She still remembers vividly the torment she underwent after her first consensual sexual intercourse. “I regretted doing this. The pain after the forced penetration was so excruciating that I found it extremely hard to overcome”, she said.
Though she was a Senior High School graduate, she spent most part of her time thinking about this incidence and making sure that her religious parents never noticed it.
“Even in the church, I kept thinking about this incidence. Thank God, I wasn’t in school at the time of the incidence, it would have affected my academic performance”, Pearl said. Pearl immediately retorts “unsafe pre-marital sexual activities can affect one’s academic performance”. She advised young people to play safe.
Young people growing up are naturally curious about sex, relationships, reproductive health and changes their bodies are going through. In spite of this interest, they often do not receive comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) education at home and in school to enable them make informed decisions.
In Ghana for example, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is not thought at home or in school to support young people to make informed decisions about their sexual lives. Just like Pearl, young people in Ghana learn SRHR issues through their friends that sometimes influence their decisions.
Fortunately, we used a condom, Pearl said but she still quivers anytime this incidence flashes through her mind and that her first sexual intercourse was unpleasant experience.
Now, Pearl, a community nurse wants parents to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to their wards at home to enable them practice safe sexual activities. “Sexual reproductive health education should begin at home”, she stressed.
Sharing her experience during a week-long training organized by Savana Signatures under the Young People In-Charge (YPIC) project on Youth Friendly Services for midwives and community nurses in the Northern Region, Pearl said the skills she acquired would help her to provide services to young people appropriately.
YPIC is a 2-year project being coordinated by Savana Signatures with ACDEP and New Dawn as implementing and technical partners. The project is funded by STOP AIDS NOW! Edukans/ Educaids, Cordaid, and Aflatoun International.
The project presents innovative and proven interventions that prevent HIV, Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) and teenage pregnancy among young people at the same time inculcating financial management in young people.
The project combines comprehensive sexuality education, social and financial education with access to youth friendly services.
The training brought 33 midwives and community health nurses across Northern region of Ghana to learn more about comprehensive sexuality education and how to professionally provide youth friendly services to young people in public health facilities.
A Senior Programme Manager of Savana Signatures and lead facilitator Abdul-Rashid Imoro said rising teenage pregnancy in the region was a concern to his outfit. According to the 2014 report of the Ghana Health Service, 750,000 young people’s education ended abruptly as a result of teenage pregnancy.
This, he said was due to lack of comprehensive sexuality education coupled with inadequate youth friendly services for young people.
He said, the training of health workers was to enhance their skills to enable them provide youth friendly services to young people that are acceptable, accessible and appropriate. The training was also to help health workers to professionally response to the SRHR needs of young people in their communities.
The programme Manager said, the training was also to link project schools where Savana Signatures projects such as the World Starts With Me (WSWM) and My World and My Life (MWML) to health centers for easy referrals from the schools to the health facilities to prevent recurring of teenage pregnancies and STI’s that so much affect young people’s education in the region.
Madam Francisca Awaa, a Senior Principal Midwife at the Tamale Teaching Hospital said the training has provided the participants an insight on youth friendly services. This, she said would go a long way to help them handle SRHR issues affecting young people professionally.
She thanked Savanna Signatures for organizing the Youth Friendly Service training for health workers saying this would refresh them to professionally render youth friendly services to young people.
YPIC is aimed to contribute to improve on a healthy and productive living of young people in Northern Ghana which ultimately would lead to reduced new HIV and STI infections and teenage pregnancies. The project is being piloted in 16 Health Centres and 23 schools and run in seven districts in the three regions of the North.
The Executive Director of Savana Signatures, John Stephen Agbenyo commended health workers for participating in the training. He urged them to apply knowledge and skills they acquired during the weeklong to assist young people in their communities to improve healthy sexual life to reduce the rate of unwanted teenage pregnancies and sexual transmitted infections.