Ghana is the second largest producer of gold in Africa. According to a special report on African Women in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining published by the African Union and the African Minerals Development Centre, the artisanal and small-scale mining workforce has more than half of its population as women. The gender-specific social and economic barriers that women and girls face such as their limited access to decent jobs in the mines and exposure to gender and sexual abuse have a significant impact on their health and well-being. The reverse is also true; women’s opportunities to engage in economic activity and improve their status are affected by their limited access to healthcare, contraception and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education.
The Golden Line Programme
Based on the barriers mentioned above, Hope for Future Generations, a non-governmental organisation, is implementing the Golden Line in partnership with Simavi, Solidaridad and Healthy Entrepreneurs to improve the health and economic opportunities and empower women living in and around artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) communities in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal, Wassa Amenfi East, Prestea-Huni Valley and Ellembelle districts in the Western Region of Ghana.
The overall goal of the project is to work closely with communities and women to improve women’s status and abilities to engage in economic activities, increase their SRHR knowledge and create an environment in which communities, health workers and authorities recognise women’s health rights.
According to Cecilia Senoo, the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Future Generations, ‘the 5-year Golden Line Programme (GLP), funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, focuses on reducing the limitations of women regarding their economic resources in order to increase their access to health services, especially those related to their SRHR’.
As part of this programme, HFFG is expected to form 75 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) in 15 communities in the project areas to help women overcome financial barriers that makes them prone to sexual and gender-based violence. The Associations would also be used as platforms to provide sexual and reproductive health education and livelihood skills to women. The concept had earlier been endorsed by traditional leaders in the project areas. VSLA groups are common modes of improving communities’ livelihoods as they promote a saving culture among beneficiaries and offer soft loans that boost the economic initiatives of its members. One of such groups formed under the Golden Line Programme is the Obaatanpa (Good Mother) VSLA group in Abreshia in the Wassa Amenfi East district.
"Barikisu Abugri: Obaatanpa Village Savings and Loans Association" 22-year old Barikisu Abugri is a mother of one and an Executive Member of the Obaatanpa VSLA group. She dropped out of school in Form One at the Junior High School Level. She is happy about the existence of the group in her community though she wished her family knew about it when she was much younger. “I dropped out of school because my family could no longer afford the costs that came with my education. If a group like this existed in my village, I am sure my mother would have ensured that I stayed in school with the small loans she would have received”, she noted. Barikisu has committed to ensure that her daughter stays in school longer than she did and she believes the VSLA will greatly support her in her quest.
Young women like Barikisu increasingly own decision-making power within their households and can make informed decisions about their health due to their growing financial strength.
The UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake will pay a working visit to Ghana on the 7 of February 2018 as part of her five country African tour. Her message is simple Put Young People First.
She will be advocating for Africa to implement the AU Roadmap for Harnessing the Demographic Dividend as it is one of the key strategies to advance economic and social development. During her visit, she would pay courtesy calls on both Minister of Youth and Sports as well as Gender, Children and Social Protection to deliberate on strategies to employ so as to implement the AU Roadmap for Harnessing the Demographic Dividend and the strategic roadmap of the President of the Republic of Ghana to enable Ghana be among the first of the African countries to fully harness a demographic dividend. She will also meet with a cross section of youth in the evening of Wednesday 7 February 2018 for exchange of philosophies.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, the President of the Republic of Ghana outlined broad strategies to be implemented at the level of the Presidency to guide the countries efforts in harnessing the demographic dividend. He termed this “Strategic Roadmap for Harnessing Demographic Dividend in Ghana” when he launched it in December 2017 and urged every sector ministry to tap into his roadmap by developing sector action plans to take full advantage of the possibilities presented by the demographic dividend. The President’s road map is built on four main pillars namely economy, education, health and good governance with each pillar projecting five key actions to be taken.
In a practical response to the spirit of the Sustainable Development goals tagline of leaving no on behind, Ms. Wickramanayake will pay a working visit to the Agbogbloshie market where she would interact with a group of female adolescent head porters (Kayayei). The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) believes that vulnerable groups including adolescent girls need special attention as Ghana stands to lose future leaders and innovators of tomorrow if any of these young peoples are left out due to current inequalities in national development.
According to the WHO, although considerable progress has been made in the fight against malaria, the burden of the disease is still very high, especially in Africa, with the region accounting for 80% of the global malaria cases in 2015. The economic impact of the disease on Africa is estimated to cost $12 billion every year. This figure factors in costs of health care, absenteeism, days lost in education, decreased productivity due to brain damage from cerebral malaria, and loss of investment and tourism.
In Ghana, malaria is still endemic in all 10 regions of the country. The recent Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS, 2014) showed that the prevalence of malaria in children age 6-59 months is high at 36 per cent as measured by RDT and 27 per cent as measured by analysis of blood smears via microscopy. In 2013, malaria accounted for around 44 per cent of all OPD attendances and 59 per cent of admissions to hospital of children less than five years of age. Eleven per cent of all deaths and 22 percent of deaths of children under the age of five years, reported through the GHS DHMIS, were as a result of malaria. Malaria continues to be a major cause of poverty and low productivity in Ghana. However, Ghana has demonstrated success in reducing the burden of malaria in the country, with a steady fall in the number of deaths attributed to malaria since 2009. Tackling malaria is part of the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030), which includes the target: by 2030 to end epidemic of malaria and other major diseases. Investment in malaria control and elimination has proven its worth.
Charles Appiah is a 40 year old farmer and has two children living with his sister. Charles lives with his mother and maternal uncle in Abeka, a community about 12 Kilometers from Ajumako, the District Capital of the Ajumako Enyan Essiam District in the Central Region of Ghana. Until he was diagnosed of TB, Charles was very hard working as a farmer but he used all his earnings for smoking “wee” (Indian hemp), cigarettes and drinking alcohol.
Charles realised that he was coughing seriously and eventually, coughing up blood, felt very weak, lost appetite and had chest pains. Through a drama outreach educational durbar organised by Hope for Future Generations (HFFG) in his community, his mother related the signs and symptoms discussed at the educational durbar to what her son was experiencing. She therefore suspected TB and impressed upon him to visit the health center. At the nearest health center, he was referred to the district hospital where he was diagnosed of TB through a sputum test. Charles was immediately put on treatment but he defaulted and his situation deteriorated. He no longer visited the health center.
During a house to house education and screening session organised by HFFG’s trained volunteers, Charles was screened for TB and sent to the district hospital for treatment by the volunteer. He was once again put on treatment and the volunteer offered to be his treatment supporter. Through the support of the volunteer, Charles has since adhered to treatment for the past five months. He is now stronger and looking very good.
As Charles said, “I really thank HFFG and the volunteer for visiting me and sending me back to the hospital for treatment. Because I defaulted, I did not know how to go back to the hospital. I resorted to herbal medicine and my sickness became worse. I almost died. If it hadn’t been the visit by the volunteer to my house, I surely would have died. Through the education, visits and support by the volunteer, I have quit smoking and drinking and I am adhering to treatment. I am very happy that I have been brought back to life through the work of the volunteer. I want everybody to know that TB is real but it is Curable and treatment is absolutely FREE. I would want to go everywhere to spread the information to all corners of the country where people are still dying of TB."