About 300 young people in the northern region have petitioned the Civil Society Platform on Sustainable Development Goals (SGDS) and the government, demanding immediate solutions to problems confronting them on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in the region.
The young people are particular about critical challenges they encounter on a daily basis at the various health facilities in their various districts.
They took the decision to demand their rights and better treatment after they had been taken through topics such as comprehensive sexuality education, youth friendly reproductive health service, planning, comprehensive abortion, drug and substance abuse, youth leadership and advocacy and mentorship and coaching at a four -day NORGHA 2018 conference held at the Tamale Girls Senior High School last week.
This year’s conference was on the theme; “Overcoming Socio-Cultural and Religious barriers to young people’s access to SRHR information and services in Ghana; the position of young people's’’.
The young people observed that religious and traditional leaders still intimidate the health centers, NGOs and even young people on issues of reproductive health.
Chiefs, religious leaders and even teachers, the youth noted, still interfere in sexual harassment cases making the rate of teenage pregnancy, child marriages, rape and defilement rampant. In addition, the youth also pointed out that access to condoms and contraceptives still remain a challenge primarily due to a shortage of health workers and restrictions.
The non-functional counselling units in the various schools contributes greatly to young people inability to overcome stigma that people put on young people who access reproductive health services.
In light of these problems, the youth subsequently issued a seven-point communique demanding that chiefs welcome health workers and NGOs into communities and support them to give young people information and services on reproductive health.
Ms Radia Issahaku Chentiwuni, the convener of the communique said that there are still unfriendly health care service providers who push young people away from health centers leaving them vulnerable to peer misguidance.
She said something should be done about health care providers who deny young people services or are not friendly to them when they visit health centers.
Ms. Chentiwuni accused traditional authorities and governments of deliberately denying young people access to decision making platforms even when the issues affect them directly.
The communique implored chiefs to welcome health workers and NGOs into communities and support them give young people information and services on reproductive health and not to interfere in sexual harassment cases. What is more, the communique appealed to the traditional leaders to understand that any member found accused of sexual harassment will be dealt with by the law.
The communiqué went on to ask chiefs to provide land or spaces in communities for the Ghana health service to set up youth friendly centers while calling for the involvement of young people in community development activities, especially on growth and development f young people.
One other demand the youth made was to see young SRHR issues integrated in traditional council discussions especially on young peoples' access to SRHR services. They also asked that the Ghana health service train and dispatch more workers into communities. Such workers should visit communities, they insisted at least twice in a month. The demands of the youth did not end there.
They also asked the health service to put in-place monitoring and disciplinary measures for health centers on youth friendly services and take young people through it so that they can help GHS monitor the activities of health centers.
In line with other demands, the youth want the GHS to establish and revamp complain units in all health facilities to deepen confidence of young people to report and seek redress.
The Executive Director of NORSAAC, Mr. Alhassan Mohammed Awal pleaded with the key stakeholders, especially the Ghana Health Service, to ensure that professional ethics at the various facilities are adhered to.
The deputy registrar at of the northern regional house of chiefs, Mr Abdul Mumin Mohammed assured the young that the house will table their issues at its meeting in October.
Mr Abdul Mumin extended invitation to the youth to attend the meeting and listen to the traditional authorities deliberating on it.