Musicians M.anifest, MzVee and Wiyaala, and sports broadcaster Gary al-Smith were part of a UNICEF delegation last week to meet adolescent girls and boys where they listened to their challenges, encouraged them in their ambitions – and promoted a healthier lifestyle through encouraging girls to engage in physical activity by playing more Ampe – a popular playground game in Ghana – or participating in sports.
There are approximately 5.5 million adolescents – children aged between 10 and 19 years old – in Ghana, and this population is likely to increase in the next few years. Several challenges beset adolescent girls, in particular. Research has found that one in five girls is married before her 18th birthday in Ghana – and one in three girls in the three northern regions. Nearly one in two of all adolescent girls aged between 15 and 19 years are anaemic – resulting in less energy and attention to engage in schooling, physical exercise or other activities. Just over one in three girls aged 15-19 years reported to have experienced at least one act of sexual violence. Almost all adolescent girls sometimes miss school due to menstruation and half of all females aged between 15 and 24 years old do not engage in any form of physical exercise.
“Adolescence is a crucial period of every child’s life and many young girls can feel vulnerable as they transition from childhood to adulthood,” said Anne-Claire Dufay, UNICEF Representative in Ghana. “The opportunities that girls are offered, and the support they are given can play a vital role in their chances of success in the future. It is essential to give every girl the best start as she enters into adulthood.”
With the support of the Korean International Co-operation Agency (KOICA), UNICEF is working to address many of these challenges facing adolescent girls in Ghana, including reducing the levels of gender based violence and child marriage and providing opportunities for girls to overcome barriers as they define and shape their ambitions. Work also includes enabling more adolescent girls to stay in school at junior and senior high level, through a variety of ways, including support for rural girls and teenage mothers, the provision of iron folic supplements to tackle anemia through its GIFTS (Girls Iron Folic Acid Tablets Supplements) programme, providing adequate sanitation facilities at schools and educating girls and boys about dignified menstrual hygiene management.
During the visit musician Wiyaala spoke of her passion for visiting the schoolchildren and communities: “I come from a town with very few opportunities for young people to make it in life, but I was able to break through and have a successful career. I want to take advantage of this to ensure that children have someone they can look up to and a chance to succeed in life.”
Rapper and singer-songwriter M.anifest shared his thoughts as he said: “Every child deserves to have a great childhood. The opportunity to meet these young people enables me to better understand how change in their lives actually can take place.”
As he travelled through Kpandai, broadcaster Gary al-Smith said:
“Gender inequality is a critical area that we have to work hard to tackle. With my influence on a lot of boys through sports, I hope to empower girls as well to be just as confident – if not even more.”
Singer MzVee shared her enthusiasm at being part of the delegation: “To have an opportunity to collaborate with UNICEF and work to empower every girl is amazing. I’m doing this in the hope that in a few months or years, girls in Ghana would have a better life than they do now.”