“Now, I am Able to Buy Things My Baby Girl and Her Brother Need with Proceeds from the Beads I Make?

The Story of An Economically Empowered Young Mother

20-year old Beatrice Agyei resides in Nweneso No.1, a small community which is known to host many small-scale miners, typically known as ‘galamsey operators’. At our outreaches held in Nweneso No.1, most inhabitants have blamed these galamsey operators for the increasing numbers of teenage pregnancy in the community. Beatrice is one of the girls who was impregnated by a galamsey operator. She is a mother of two – a 3-year old boy and his baby sister. Beatrice is a beneficiary of our integrated counselling session for teenage / young mothers and pregnant teenagers, and a skills building session dubbed ‘Girls Time’. She shares her story of hope.

“I dropped out of school when I was in class 2 because I was constantly mocked by my peers due to my low intellectual ability. While home, I unfortunately got pregnant at age 16. After childbirth, the burden of parenting became the responsibility of my parents and myself, with little support from the father of the children.

Through a community health worker, who was also trained as a GHARH advocate, I became part of a counselling programme organised by HFFG. I was told that this programme was sponsored by UKaid. The programme inspired me and let me know that I could go back to school if I wanted to. After the counselling programme, I was enrolled into the Girls Time programme where I was taught how to use beads to make beautiful slippers, bracelets and necklaces. I feel very hopeful about my children’s future; Now, I am able to buy things my baby girl and her brother need with proceeds from the beads I make.?

GHARH Advocate on District Decision-Making Table

19-year old Paulina Agyei was one of the over 30 young people trained as an advocate under the Ghana Adolescents Reproductive Health (GHARH) project. Before this, she was trained as a peer educator to educate her peers on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues and referred them to health facilities for counselling and services when there was a need to.

Recently, Paulina was invited to represent young people in the Atwima Kwanwoma district in the Ashanti Region on a district decision-making platform. This was a meeting with decision-makers such as the District Chief Executive, District Health Director, District Girls Education Officer, religious and traditional leaders among others, to agree on proposed bye-laws to protect young people from abuse.

The bye-laws came with sanctions for perpetrators. One of such was, teachers who impregnate school girls would pay 3 years of the students’ school fees. The girls will be encouraged to go back to school.

Paulina feels that this experience is rich and is willing to use the relationships she has established with these stakeholders to create a conducive environment in which young people in the district can thrive.

Creating Change Through My Experience

In 2016, 458 reported cases of teenage pregnancy were recorded in the Atwima Kwanwoma district alone. Inhabitants, however, mentioned that the situation is worse than what the statistics say. Peter Gyamfi is a 21-year-old who hails from Trabuom, a farming community in the Atwima Kwanwoma district of the Ashanti Region.

Peter is a Senior High School leaver and depends on his parents for his livelihood. His dream is to become a soldier. Peter better describes his goal; “In the next five years, I wish to become a soldier. That is my goal but I have lost courage because I don’t have any certificate to take me there so I need help please?. Peter was selected and trained as a Peer Educator on the UKaid supported GHARH project through a community health nurse. As part of the selection criteria, HFFG requested for adolescents who were respected within their community and among their peers. Unfortunately, Peter’s girlfriend was pregnant and he had become the talk of the town. He, however, after the peer educators’ training resolved to use his experience to encourage his peers to learn from his predicament by abstaining from sex or engaging in safe sex.

Due to his commitment and passion to contribute to reducing teenage pregnancy in his community, he was also trained to be an advocate under the project. After the training, he became a member of the Atwima Kwanwoma District Project Management Committee. As an advocate, he engaged in decision making processes at this level and was an agent of change in his community.

According to Peter, given the opportunity to be a peer educator and an advocate has really impacted his life positively. It is an opportunity he never thought he could have due to his economic situation and his current state as a teenage father. He has promised to contribute his quota to his community’s development through his continuous engagement with community leaders- a link that HFFG helped him establish- and by unremittingly empowering his peers with accurate sexual and reproductive health information even though the project has ended. Peter also received skills training in beads making and rabbit rearing through the ‘Boys Time’ activity under the project. He currently feels empowered economically to be able to cater for himself and his family.