Ghana and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on Wednesday launched the “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3)” Programme to enhance Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in the Africa.
The Programme which is being supported by the Governments of Sweden and Ireland was also to scale up youth friendly sexual and reproductive health rights services for adolescents and young people.
Ms Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General said Africa’s youth especially girls were its future and most precious resource, therefore defending young women’s right to education was crucial both as a goal and a means to better health and development outcomes.
Speaking at the launch in Accra, Ms Azoulay said knowledge protects adolescents from high risks therefore, it was necessary to address barriers to young people’s health and education.
“Education protects girls and women, but protects the society and nation as a whole. UNESCO education encompasses educational health and they are the right to physical health, psychological wellbeing, life.
“These are rights that all girls and women should learn to protect all their lives,” she said.
Professor Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, said since the European Space Agency’s commitment and significant progress had been duly achieved by most countries in developing political and policy support for CSE and reaching out to young people, educators, parents and community leaders.
He said Zambia was able to attain an almost full-scale implementation of CSE.
Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, the Minister for Education who launched the Programme, said Ghana recognised sexual and reproductive health education as a conduit for addressing issues affecting its youth.
Experience over the years and best practices around the world, he said, suggested that an effective reproductive health education should cover a wide range of issues including; gender equality, power relations, values, human rights as well as personal and social skills such as self-assertiveness, negotiation and decision-making skills essential to life.
“It is in this light that Ghana welcomes the ‘O3’ initiative and the Regional Acceleration Programme which seeks to accelerate and deepen the scope of existing CSE in six beneficiary countries…,” he said.
Dr Opoku Prempeh said Ghana was still facing HIV and AIDS, teenage pregnancies, gender-based violence and child marriages with devastating impact on its educational outcomes.
According to the 2017 HIV Sentinel Survey Report, while HIV prevalence among antenatal clients had decreased from 2.4 per cent in 2016 to 2.1 per cent in 2017, HIV prevalence in the young population (15 to 24 years) increased its prevalence to 1.5 per cent from the 1.1 per cent recorded in 2016, he said.
The Education Minister quoting a UNICEF report, said one in three girls in the developing world were married before age 18 and in the poorest countries, the ratio rises to one in every two girls, adding it makes young people not only face higher risk of illness, but also unable to achieve their educational goals.
Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister of Health said the health and development of adolescents gave the nation an idea of how its health status would be in future and said it was important to invest in the heath of adolescents and protect their fundamental human rights, adding that prevention of child marriage was key to democratic development.
Mr Agyeman-Manu noted that the Ministry had ensured that adolescent and reproductive health study and CSE were included in the Basic and Senior High School curricula to enhance the knowledge of the students.
It would support delivery of good quality CSE that empowers adolescents and young people to deepen the scope of existing activities to attain an almost full-scale implementation of CSE in six countries also known as the Programme Acceleration Countries - Ghana, Eswatini, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Over 20 million learners in 64,000 primary and secondary schools are expected to be reached on the Programme, as well as 47,000 preservice teachers and 367,000 in-service teachers.
The Programme is also expected to reach 30 million people including parents, guardians, religious leaders, and young people out of school through community engagement activities and ten million young people through other platforms.