Abigail volunteers as an accountability advocate with Restless Development. She collects data on women’s maternal health, which she uses to hold her government to account in this area.
Womanhood should be a blessing but the million dollar question is – how many women enjoy this privilege? Many are the challenges that Ghanaian woman often face. One of these issues is the access to information and services on reproductive health.
Under the accountability advocates project of Restless development, which aims at empowering young people to lead accountability towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), John, Richard and I (my team in Ghana) focus on Goals 3 and 5. These goals generally relate to reducing maternal mortality and improving access to information and services on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
Data gathering that we carried out revealed some of the challenges on the ground that women and young people face with regards to their reproductive health and maternal mortality. A focal group discussion that was held in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana, raised concerns such as the lack of independence on the part of women to make decisions or choices when it comes to SRH since these decisions are subjected to the approval of their husbands. For instance, one woman who was a victim of child marriage, shared her story on how she had to withdraw her decision of going in for family planning services because her husband disliked the idea.
Another issue that came up was, pregnant women resorting to traditional birth attendants, sometimes, as a result of the unavailability of health facilities in the community or these facilities being farther kilometers away. Some of these birth attendants however are not registered and recognized by the official health system. Some other issues that were raised are, the health facilities being unfriendly to the disabled, inadequate support from husbands during pregnancy, and hostility and negligence of some health workers which sometimes results to maternal mortality .
We also gathered some data in the Eastern region of Ghana, with both in school and out of school young people. This data identified the gap in young people’s access to information and services on SRH. In some of the communities, the adolescent friendly centers were not available or young people did not know where to find them. While in other places where these facilities were available, some young people expressed the unwillingness to go because of the stigmatization that it comes with, the hostile attitude of some health workers and staff at the adolescent youth centers being elderly people instead of the relatively younger ones that the youth can connect with. Friends and the internet become some of the alternative sources of information with the risk of some of the information being inaccurate.
With these findings as advocates, we expect the government and other relevant stakeholders to tailor their interventions along these lines, increasing the accessibility to information and services on reproductive health and rights towards achieving the Goal 3 and 5 of the SDGs. We have also begun feeding the information gathered into policy making on various platforms. Women must also be given the right to be able to make the ultimate decisions concerning their SRHR.
As we embark on our developmental journey to 2030, in order to achieve the aim of leaving no one behind, the health of women and young people must be given the necessary attention especially in relation to their reproductive health and rights.