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Ghana: Youth take the lead in addressing poor health services

In the Central and Upper West regions of Ghana only 60% to 63% of births are attended by skilled personnel and 23.4% of women in rural areas have had a live birth before 18 years. A lack of information, poor sexual and reproductive health services and low contraceptive prevalence compromise the health of adolescents and have led to a higher than usual maternal death rate, especially in rural communities.

In response to this situation Plan International Ghana established the Young Voices Project with support from the European Commission. Young Voices aims to reduce maternal mortality in Ghana by empowering young women and men in rural Ghana to hold district assembly members and health service providers accountable in order to ensure effective sexual and reproductive healthcare delivery, including maternal healthcare.

Abdul, a youth group leader in the Weichau community in the Upper West region of Ghana, highlights some of the problems adolescents in the region face.

No one to talk to

“Teenage girls get pregnant whilst in school and this makes them unable to continue with their education to the desired level. I have also noticed that whenever teenagers have problems that pertain to their sexuality, they do not have access to health personnel with whom they can share their problems for advice. Because of this, some of my colleagues have contracted some infections in their private parts but feel shy to go to the health post because they think the nurses will insult them.  Many of us therefore seek advice from our peers, endangering our health and lives.”

Young people raise their voice for accountability

Through capacity building sessions, Abdul’s youth group was introduced to the Patients Charter, the Nurses’ Code of Ethics and social accountability tools, including the Community Score Card which provides information on the standards adolescent sexual reproductive services should meet. Using these tools the young people were able to identify what services were lacking for them. They were also able to have a meeting with their health services providers to see how these providers were going to ensure that the services were improved upon.

“I vividly recall the day of the interface meeting because it brings exciting memories,” remembers Abdul. “The meeting was attended by representatives of the Chiefs, the Assemblyman of our area and the leadership of the hospital together with their team. During the meeting all the members of my youth group who had issues with the services provided at the health post articulated their grievances in a very respectful way.”

Now we have more information on adolescent sexual issues

During the meeting an action plan for responding to issues with services providers was developed and a list of grievances to bring to the Regional Health Directorate was drawn up.

Changing attitudes and improving sexual and reproductive health rights

The meeting has led to an attitude shift among health service providers who now realise they need to be patient and tolerant with adolescents and allow young people to discuss any issues with the nurse freely. The hospital has also set aside a day for an adolescent friendly corner where young people can be attended to by health personnel.

“Now we have more information on adolescent sexual issues like the treatment and management of unsafe abortions, treatment and management of reproductive tract infections, safe motherhood, family planning and counselling.”

We will ensure that there is improvement in the quality of adolescent health services provided 

“With the introduction of the Young Voices project me and my colleagues will ensure that there is improvement in the quality of adolescent health services provided by the duty bearers and believe that if we continue to show commitment our adolescent sexual health needs will be duly addressed and issues related to teenage pregnancy will be a thing of the past,” Abdul declares determinedly.  


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