Mrs Cecilia Eben Bleeker, the Founder and President of the Bleeker Foundation International, a Health Non-governmental Organisation, on Monday encouraged African parents to help break the ice around open conversations on sex and sexuality with their children.
She said this has become very critical in the light of the soaring rate of teenage pregnancies in both rural and urban communities across the country and in the sub-Region.
Mrs Bleeker was speaking in Accra at a three-day Sexual Reproductive Health campaign on “Adolescent Motherhood in sub-Saharan Africa,” organised by the Bleeker Foundation and supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), iPAS and the Act for Change and NGO, for the James Town community in Accra.
She said having an open conversation about sex and sexuality issues with their children and especially adolescents, did not mean encouraging them to practice, but they would rather be empowering and protecting them with key information, to be able to make informed decisions and choices.
She said Ghana’s record of about 57,000 teenage pregnancies in the first quarter of 2017 was alarming and called for urgent interventions and partnerships to slow down the progress.
The campaign, she said, therefore targeted the James Town community which had a peculiar challenge with high teenage pregnancy, and would ensure strong and sustained advocacy for change.
Mrs Bleeker said the Foundation was committed to partnering with other NGOs working on Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health (ASRH) to achieve results, and also supporting teenage mothers who were willing to be helped, to learn a skill for their upkeep.
Mr Selorme Kofi Azumah, a Senior Advisor in Community Access at iPAS Ghana, in a presentation said Ghana’s current ASRH record was not encouraging.
He said despite the numerous policies and interventions in place teenage pregnancy continued to head for the roof, with an increase from 13 per cent in 2008 to 14.2 per cent in 2017, representing an increase of about 1.2 per cent.
He talked about the huge costs of teenage pregnancy on both the individual, society and the nation as a whole.
He explained that apart from the possibility of high school dropout rates, leading to low educational achievement among women and girls, there was high unemployment, low remuneration, as well as the staring threat of “streetism” with its generational cycle of poverty.
Mr Azumah said the challenges of teenage pregnancy had human resource implications for the future, and urged the government to salvage the present situation by setting aside a definitive budget for the timely provision of ASRH information, education and family planning services.
Mr Niyi Ojuolape, the UNFPA Country Representative, said the hypocrisy surrounding the provision of sex and sexuality education for adolescents must give way to open conversations, were parents would be able to share key information with their children, and for communities to guard their young ones.
He said it was time to make ASRH everybody’s business as the potentials of these adolescents could end up impeding upon the attainment of major national development aspirations.
He commended the Bleeker Foundation for the initiative, and also the support and partnership from other institutions, and pledged the UNFPA’s commitment towards closing the gap of unmet needs for family planning, prevention of maternal deaths as well as the elimination of gender-based violence.
Mrs Ophelia Palm, a Principal Midwifery Officer and Adolescent Health Coordinator at the Ussher Polyclinic at James Town in Accra, said the facility has been seeing huge cases of teenage pregnancies owing to its strategic location in the heart of the city.
She said most of these pregnant women report to the facility with severe anemia, malnutrition, and malaria, which were among the high-risk factors for pre-eclampsia which result in high blood pressure, swollen feet, protein in the urine, and in worse cases, could lead to death of both mother and baby.
She advised all pregnant women to attend ante-natal clinics early enough to access proper care to prevent any pregnancy-related complications that may threaten the health of both the mother and her baby.