Abu, an able-bodied young Dangomba, lives in a slum community in Sunyani in the Bono Region. A migrant from northern Ghana, Abu and many others like him migrated to the south in search of greener pastures.
Majority of them, being unskilled and without formal education, earn their keep as male porters, carting goods for traders with wheelbarrows during market days.
Consequently, they are commonly referred to as ‘wheelbarrow pushers’ in the municipality. Some of them are scrap dealers, while a large number of them sell coconuts at night to supplement their income.
Being adolescents with great sexual urge, Abu and his male colleagues tend to abuse the adolescent girls in the communities where they live. With no source of entertainment, the young men end up using sex as their means of entertainment and have unprotected sex with the girls, resulting in teenage pregnancies. Lacking adequate knowledge of their reproductive health, the intimate relationship with their peer girls also expose them to sexually transmitted diseases.
To address the reproductive issues of this group, the Department of Gender of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in the Bono Region organised a dialogue to educate them on their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and what constitutes sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and their prevention strategies.
This activity formed part of the region’s strategy of engaging men and boys in the fight against teenage pregnancy. The programme was aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies in the region by educating the boys and men on gender equality, human rights and the abuse of drugs.
In all, 140 of the wheelbarrow pushers aged 12 to 23 participated in the dialogue, organised under the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Adolescent Girls Programme aimed at helping adolescent girls to access youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and commodities.
The Director of the Department of Gender, Ms Joselyn Adii, said the dialogue, sponsored by the Canadian government, was facilitated by officials from the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, the National Youth Authority, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG).
Abu and his colleagues were educated on gender norms and the acts that constitute SGBV, implications for committing the acts and how and where to seek redress when one experienced any violence.
The dialogue also focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights and substance abuse, the legal implications of perpetrating sexual and gender based violence against any person.
According to the participants, the dialogue was an eye opener as most of the issues discussed were unknown to them, particularly those that were said to constitute SGBV and the legal implications of perpetrating violence.
Interacting with officials of the UNFPA who undertook a monitoring exercise of the project, the wheelbarrow pushers indicated that due to the dialogue they realised that their perception of women, based on their culture fester negative attitude towards adolescent girls.
“As the discussions went on, it became clear to me that we had very little respect for women based on our cultural orientation.
“This perception changed after our participation in the dialogue and we really appreciate the information shared and knowledge gained, since they will help change our attitudes and actions towards adolescent girls,” Abu stated.
Some of the wheelbarrow pushers also confessed to using substances including marijuana, tramadol among others, to aid them in their work, as the drugs helped them to work beyond their ordinary energy levels so that they could make more money.
Others said the drugs also boost their sexual performance.
They called on the Department of Gender to organise more dialogues in order to disseminate the information to more of their members.
Source: Graphic Online