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11.10.2004 Regional News

Paralegals asked to adopt effective adolescent programmes

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Ejisu (Ash), Oct 11, GNA - Paralegals have been urged to ensure that district assemblies adopt programmes that will reflect the special needs of marginalized adolescents like street children and the physically and mentally challenged children.

Nana Otuo Sereboe II, Juabenhene, who made the call, also asked the experts to assist the assemblies to remove all legal and policy barriers to reproductive health care delivery for adolescents. This was contained in a speech read on for him at a durbar of chiefs and Queenmothers at the launch of adolescent paralegal training programme for the Ejisu-Juaben district assembly at Ejisu on Friday. It was organised by the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the Africa Youth Alliance (AYA), both non-governmental organizations for community leaders in the district drawn from Juaben, Onwi, Boankra, Bonwire and Asotwe.

Nana Sereboe urged paralegals to assist in enforcing the Children's Act of 1998, which required girls to marry at the age of 18 and above and ensure that both male and female adolescents were protected from sexual violence.

He pointed out that as adolescents begin to mature physically and emotionally, the majority of them become sexually active, despite cultural and religious values.

"We seen to fail to take account of this reality and the grave consequences that adolescents suffer to their health and wellbeing are that, many contract sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS or become pregnant simply because they lacked basic and reliable information.

Nana Sereboe, therefore, appealed to the district assembly and other stakeholders in the district to support programmes concerning paralegals.

Mr Yaw Ahenkora Afrifa, the Ejisu-Juaben District Chief Executive, said the district had benefited from 40 paralegals who were well versed in the area of adolescent sexual and reproductive rights to assist, identify and solve adolescent reproductive health problems in the area. He said it was the belief of the assembly that advocacy initiatives pursued by the paralegals would ensure that the district's programmes related to adolescent reproductive health issues and pledged that the assembly would support the paralegals in their work.

Mrs Dora Oppong of FIDA said the two NGOs had were aimed at promoting adolescent reproductive health rights in Ghana and that the Ejisu-Juaben district assembly was one of the 20 districts that had benefited from project.

The main objective of the project, she said was to create awareness on and support for laws and policies on adolescent sexual reproductive rights in Ghana.

Mrs Oppong said adolescents represented 30.5 per cent of the country's population, but many of them live in circumstances that could increase their sexual and reproductive health risks, adding that the young girls were the most vulnerable in matters of sexuality and HIV/AIDS.

She said: "The constant reports of sexual abuse such as rape and defilement reported in the media have all targeted female adolescents. Some problems associated with these form of abuse are risk to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS."

Mrs Oppong therefore requested the paralegals to work hard to reverse the trend and appealed to the district assemblies, traditional rulers and the law enforcement agencies to support the paralegals work to ensure that adolescents attained the highest health standards.

Mr Charles Habiah, Co-ordinator of the FIDA-AYA Adolescent Reproductive Rights Project, said the main objective of the scheme was to undertake intensive research and advocacy to create awareness on and support for laws and policies on adolescent sexual and reproductive rights in Ghana.

He said the advocacy was principally directed at policy makers like the Ministries of Health, Education, Finance, Women and Children's Affairs, Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies, unit committees, traditional and religious leaders and parliamentarians.

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