Richard Dzikunu is an Accountability Advocate as part of Restless Development’s Youth Power campaign. Here Richard explains how using the power of data can turn the tide on maternal mortality in Ghana.
As we move towards making the Global Goals a reality, Africa’s development strategies must unleash the power of the continent’s young people.
For decades, many African countries have come up with development plans that often miss the opportunity to harness the potential of young people and transform the continent.
I am a Youth Power Accountability Advocate living in Ghana. I work alongside two other talented Accountability Advocates, John and Abigail. Together we are part of a global network of young people that are championing the Global Goals and holding leaders to account on their progress.
We gather vital data on maternal mortality rates with the aim of reducing deaths amongst expectant mothers.
Our findings – based on research in three regions of the country – focus mainly on rural mothers, health workers, traditional birth attendants, traditional leaders as well as adolescents both in and out of school. And they are a significant step towards convincing the government to take action.
Exposing new causes of maternal mortality
Sometimes we have to travel over 8 hours by bus to rural areas in Ghana, reaching communities where we often face cultural barriers interacting with mothers and traditional leaders. But eventually, through discussion groups with mothers, local leaders and local community nurses, trained Youth Power Accountability Advocates can break down those barriers and gain vital data to expose causes of maternal mortality that community.
Women in these groups would share their experiences, such as husbands threatening their pregnant wives and preventing them from attending pre-natal sessions because of how much it cost; and problem of poor roads and lack of transport to get them to medical facilities. In one case, mothers without access to transport were advised by a local nurse to find someone in the community with a tractor so that they could travel on damaged roads.
Our data has revealed new findings into the causes of maternal mortality in rural Ghana, and has identified gaps in places where young people are not getting ‘comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)’.
Ghana needs to redouble its efforts to lower maternal mortality levels by revitalising existing health and family planning services available.
Together with other youth groups, we have developed new ‘indicators’ to measure the success of Global Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and Global Goal 5 (Gender Equality) – the two goals which aim to tackle maternal mortality and lack of access to CSE. And we will use them to hold leaders to account. These were shared at a national event attended by civil society organisations and the Ghana national youth authority.
Young people everywhere are being bold, holding leaders to account and showing how the Global Goals can be achieved. Right now, leaders and young people are gathered at a UN summit in New York (The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum) to discuss the plans to implement the Global Goals. Leaders must walk the talk by ensuring young people can play a lead role in turning the Global Goals into action.
Restless Development is at the ECOSOC Youth Forum, calling for young people and Accountability Advocates like Richard to take a lead role in plans to roll out the Global Goals in every country.