In a commendable effort to uplift marginalized girls and combat child marriage in Ghana, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Ghana has partnered with the Purim African Youth Development Platform (PAYDP) to undertake a project to totally transform the lives of young girls in the country.
This programme extends a helping hand to female head porters, also known as, Kayayei and other marginalized girls, offering them a multifaceted approach to empowerment.
It encompasses a diverse range of activities to uplift the lives of young girls, including sexual reproductive health education, legal literacy, livelihood empowerment skills, and mentorship.
Speaking to UniversNews, Director of the Purim African Youth Development Platform, Rev. Aku Xornam Kevi, highlighted the comprehensive approach of the program, stating, “This Programme is an Ending Child Marriage Program and it tackles Kayayei and other marginalized girls. We have sexual reproductive health under the programme and legal literacy that teaches these girls about their rights, and we have the livelihood empowerment skills and we have the leadership and mentorship component also as part of the programme.”
According to Rev. Kevi, under the livelihood empowerment section, the programme equips girls with valuable skills that can enable them to earn a sustainable income. The regions involved in this initiative have tailored their training to the local resources and talents of the girls.
She added that for instance, in Greater Accra region, girls are trained in crafting cosmetics, shea butter products, shampoo, antiseptic and liquid soap, leather sandals, and beads. Meanwhile, in the Ashanti Region, the focus is on root and tuber processing, producing cassava flour, potato flour, plantain flour and other kinds of flours, which are often used in pastries.
“Every year we have the Kayayei Business and leadership Summit, where the girls sell the products they’ve made. Beyond the skills, we are teaching some of the girls how to learn a trade. Some have learned to braid hair, and others are pursuing formal education in catering,” Rev. Kevi further shared.
Rev. Kevi further added that the programme has also established Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Champions in various regions, who actively collect data and educate their peers on these issues, in addition to referring victims to appropriate support services.
“Currently we have Sexual and Gender Based Violence Champions in almost all the regions. So everyday, they go out with the data collection tools we give them and they use them to educate their peers in the communities. They also collect data and share them with us. We also have what we call the Whistleblowers who are men in the community who assist them to be able to do their work. When they see people who have undergone Sexual and Gender Based Violence, they refer them to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) and they talk to us about it,” she said.
Rev. Kevi acknowledged the challenges faced by the programme, such as the reluctance of some girls to undergo training and the pressure for quick financial gains. She noted that not all girls are willing to invest time in acquiring livelihood skills.
“Its not all the girls that are interested in acquiring livelihood skills. When you bring them, it’s not all of them that are willing to undergo the training. Some of them don’t finish learning and they run away. They want instant money, so they don’t have time to go through all the trainings. Some of the family members too are waiting for money from the girls,” she bemoaned.
Despite the challenges, Rev. Kevi assured that the programme has witnessed numerous success stories, with girls returning to school or pursuing higher education and successfully managing businesses. Looking ahead, she expressed the desire to enhance the marketability of the girls’ products and enroll more participants in the training.
“We have had many success stories, we have had girls go back to school, some are in the midwifery school, some are in the University of Development Studies and the University of Education Winneba. We have girls who are managing their businesses and making money out of it. Moving forward, we want to see more marketability of the products, we also want to have more girls enrolled and undergo the training so that they can sustain their lives,” she added.
Rev. Kevi finally extended her heartfelt appreciation to UNFPA Ghana, recognizing the transformative impact the program has had on the lives of girls and underscoring the hope for continued transformation in the future.
The collaborative efforts between Purim African Youth Development Platform and UNFPA Ghana continue to pave the way for a brighter future for marginalized girls in the country.
Meanwhile, National Programme Analyst of UNFPA Ghana, Faisal Bawa, has called on the government, Non-governmental Organizations and the general public to invest in the education of girls across the country as he believes the education of girls aid in the eradication of teenage pregnancies and child marriages in the country.
Speaking to UniversNews, he stressed that education equips girls with knowledge and awareness, enabling them to make informed decisions about their lives and futures.
“I also want to mention the importance of education. The more girls stay in school, the more they delay issues of pregnancy and child marriage. The more they are aware, the more they’re able to say that ‘No, I want to stay safe. I want to do this and that before I think of having my family issues.’ So let’s look at the issues of skills training, economic opportunity, and education for girls as something that has worked,” he said.
Story by: Kelly Adjetey Boye | univers.ug.edu.gh