04.09.2004 Regional News

FIDA trains paralegals on adolescent reproductive rights

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Asiakwa (E/R), Sept. 4, GNA - The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the African Youth Alliance (AYA) have trained 35 persons, including youth and community leaders in paralegal advocacy in adolescent reproductive rights in five communities in the East Akim District.

The paralegals drawn from Kyebi, Kyebi Zongo, Kyebi Praso, Asikam and Panoh, were trained to identify adolescent sexual reproductive health problems and rights violations in their communities and refer them to the relevant agencies for redress.

They were also expected to undertake advocacy and other sensitization programmes to ensure that the right environment for the total growth of the adolescent was enhanced.

This was spelt out at a durbar of chiefs and queen mothers held at Asiakwa, near Kyebi, on Friday to mark the end of the weeklong training session and inauguration of the East Akim Paralegals Association. The occasion also formed the second Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Rights Paralegal (ARSRP) training in the Eastern Region after Akuapem North District and the 16th in a series to be held in 20 selected districts in the country by the joint FIDA/AYA.

In a keynote address, the Kyidomhene of Kyebi, Nana Twum Barimah commended the two bodies for introducing the project to the area and described it as "opportunity".

He observed that, although adolescents right to privacy and confidentiality in seeking information and services existed in the district to some extent, many young people still found it difficult or impossible to discuss sexual matters with adults.

Nana Twum Barimah urged the paralegals to collaborate with the District Assemblies to remove all legal and policy barriers to reproductive healthcare for adolescents and ensure that the assemblies adopted programmes that reflect the special needs of marginalized adolescents like street children and the physically and mentally challenged.

The President of FIDA, Mrs Chris Dadzie stated that, though adolescents represented over 30 per cent of the country's population, unfortunately, a large number of them lived in circumstances that could increase their sexual and reproductive health risks.

She noted that constant reports of sexual abuses, such as rape and defilement, had targeted female adolescents leading to sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.

Mrs Dadzie referred to several laws FIDA had promoted but noted that some of them seemed inadequate in nature, thereby making it difficult for their enforcement to bring culprits to book. It is sometimes due to ignorance.

She called on the paralegals to, among other activities, pursue the FIDA/AYA strategy of exploring-culturally sensitive approaches to promote reproductive health and rights issues, including HIV/AIDS prevention.

They should work closely with the assemblies, law enforcement agencies and traditional rulers to remove any barriers to reproductive healthcare for adolescents, she added.

According to the Project Co-ordinator, Mr Charles Habiah, 604 paralegals have so far been trained in the 15 districts.

The Asiakwahene, Osabarima Agyeman, who chaired the function, urged the judiciary and security agencies to collaborate in dealing with abuse of adolescent sexuality and domestic violence and assured the co-operation of chiefs in the area to achieve the objectives of the project.

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