Some selected adolescents from six districts of the Upper East Region have been trained and equipped as Youth Ambassadors to help support child protection and prevent early and forced marriages in their various communities.
The adolescents made up of 40 girls and 20 boys were selected from 30 communities by Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana (YHFG), a youth-focused non-governmental organization based in Bolgatanga, to help implement a project called Safe and Protective Environment for Adolescent Development (SPREAD).
Under the project, YHFG seeks to build the capacities of adolescents and communities (including their structures and duty bearers) to create an enabling environment that supports child protection, prevents early and forced child marriages and teenage pregnancies as well as prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
The project covers six districts of the Upper East Region. These include Builsa South, Bongo, Talensi, Bawku West, Kassena – Nankana West and Nabdam Districts.
During the four-day workshop, the adolescents were taken through some lessons in understanding child protection issues, gender roles and stereotypes, puberty, menstrual hygiene and nutrition, risky practices and behaviors, rights and responsibilities, volunteerism, among others.
Also, with the guidance of the Child Protection Officer at UNICEF, Ruby Anang and the Regional Director for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Georgina Aberese, the young boys and girls were led to understand the UNICEF tool kits, in order to support open reflection and dialogue on a range of child protection issues.
At the end of the training, each ambassador received a backpack with Information, Education and Communication materials, flyers, note pads and pens.
They were also given a bicycle each to facilitate their movement within the communities where they are to work.
Project Officer at Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana, Albert Apotele Nyaaba said the best way to end child marriages is to keep girls in school and therefore YHFG was hopeful the Youth Ambassadors will help them achieve this at the community level.
“We want to see you embark on campaigns to help your peers who may have dropped out of school and are considering marriage, to change their minds and go back to school”, Mr. Nyaaba told the Youth Ambassadors.
“And for those who have already dropped out as a result of pregnancy, there is hope for them. They can take advantage of the Young Mothers Back to School Policy and get back to school”, he added.
For the adolescent Youth Ambassadors, this was an opportunity for them to learn, be self-aware and help their peers who for one reason or the other, have dropped out of school, to get back on track and also prevent all forms of child abuse, such as rape, defilement.
Lawrencia Abass, one of the trained Youth Ambassadors said, “I am excited to be part of this. It is an opportunity for me to learn and also help my peers back at my community in Pelungu (in the Nabdam district)”.