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Regional News Fri, 7 May 2004

Lack of basic information on sex causes STI

Dodowa, May 7, GNA - Mr James Odotei Myers, Headmaster of Ghanata Secondary School at Dodowa, on Friday noted that most adolescent girls contracted Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) or became pregnant because they lacked basic and reliable information about sex.

He said the training and involvement of the youth as peer educators would complement the national adolescent reproductive health policy and ensure that information and services were appropriate and relevant to adolescents.

Mr Myers was speaking at the inauguration of the Fourth Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Rights Paralegals Training at Dodowa in the Dangme West district of the Greater Accra Region.

The paralegals were drawn from 39 communities in the Dangme West district were community leaders trained in Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health laws and were supposed to act as referral points within the community.

They would identify the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health problems and human rights violations and refer them to relevant legal bodies for redress towards the creation of the right environment for the growth and development of adolescents.

Mr Myers said the lack of education on sexual issues and inaccessibility to information by adolescent girls constituted violation of adolescent's human rights adding, "this situation is prevalent in many of our communities including districts in the Greater Accra region".

"A study conducted by the Sociology Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, on adolescent girls in Ga Mashie showed a high prevalent rate of abortion among young girls in the area," he said.

Mr Myers asked the paralegals to actively participate in adolescent reproductive health awareness campaign, promote and guarantee reproductive rights as part of the national agenda for development He said the task of paralegals in acting as referral points in the communities to address problems of adolescent reproductive health was of utmost importance to the society.

Mr Myers said:" Paralegals must assist the youth to know that the social and developmental consequences of reproductive decision are far-reaching".

He urged them to assist district assemblies to remove all legal and policy barriers to reproductive health care for adolescents. Mr Myers said: "Ensure that district assemblies adopt programmes that reflect the special needs of the marginalized adolescents like street children, physically and mentally challenged children", he said. He appealed to the paralegals to assist in the enforcement of the Children's Act of 1998, which required adolescent girls to marry at 18 years and above in their communities and ensure that both men and women were protected from sexual violence.

Ms Margaret Insaidoo, Vice President of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) said the organisation was committed to promoting the rights of women and children and had been providing legal aid service to this effect since 1985.

She said adolescence was a critical stage in a person's life, where decisions were made about their education future upbringing. Ms Insaidoo said FIDA in collaboration with the African Youth Alliance had trained 420 paralegals to assist in implementing programmes about adolescence in the country.

Mr Charles Habiah, the project coordinator, said 20 paralegals associations would be formed in 20 districts in the country including the Dangme West district.

He said the training of paralegals was aimed at producing community leaders, including the youth who have basic knowledge of the law to help them to identify and address adolescent reproductive rights issues.

Source: GNA