Community sensitisation is essential to reducing young people’s vulnerability to kidnappings, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy, says Joseph Wemakor.
Ghana, a beautiful peaceful, culturally rich country in Western Africa, is home to a little over 30 million people. In recent history it has had the privilege of relative stability compared to many countries on the African continent but in 2018 something terrible happened.
Kidnappings, a new menace.
Three young Ghanaian girls from Sekondi-Takoradi in the west of the country went missing. They have still not been found. A little later two young Canadian women who worked for Youth Challenge International, were reportedly seized at a golf course in the city of Kumasi. Then an Indian businessman was kidnapped, then an Estonian diplomat. All in all almost 70 kidnapping cases were recorded during the latter part of 2018.
This bizarre saga hit like a tsunami sending shock waves of intense consternation and trepidation across the country. Sometimes kidnappers demanded and received huge ransoms. Sometimes, fortunately, the Security Forces were able to rescue those kidnapped. Others have still never been released.
As the spate of kidnappings continued into 2019, President Nana Akufo-Addo responded with urgency in an attempt to allay people’s fears, pledging his government’s determination to put an end to the kidnappers’ activities. But it takes more than rhetoric to curtail such a worrying canker. And I knew I had to do something to compliment the government’s efforts.
Education reduces vulnerability.
And together, with my amazing team of volunteers we began a sensitisation campaign. We enlightened our fellow Ghanaians, particularly young people who were most at risk, on the tricks being employed by kidnappers.
It is this sort of education of the general population which has led to a drastic reduction in instances of successful kidnappings in Ghana.”
This kind of community education is essential to addressing all social crises. And that’s why we created the ‘Kidnapping, Teenage Pregnancy and Tramadol/Drug Abuse Sensitization Campaign’ (KTT). We were able to use our educative network of volunteers to fight all three of these momentous issues at once.
In Ghana, teenage pregnancies, which carry far greater risks for parents and children, are common. 14% of those aged 15 to 19 have children of their own and around 16 million adolescents give birth each year. Drug abuse is an equally alarming issue in Ghana. In particular marijuana and tramadol usage are rising quickly. This is especially concerning among children as young as 10-12 years old.
These issues are directly tied to high unemployment rates and frustrations at the lack of further education and training opportunities.”
The KTT campaign focused on addressing the issues of kidnapping, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse but equally set about creating a deeper education on human rights to bring about a cultural change. Over two years we reached over 60,000 Ghanaians sensitising them on the most pressing and critical social and human rights issues Ghana is facing.
I have also established ‘the Human Rights Reporters Ghana’ (HRRG) which is dedicated to protecting and ending human rights abuses in Ghana and beyond. The HRRG brings together journalists, news editors, human rights activists, advocates, defenders and lawyers together to advance the rights of women, girls, children, young people living with disabilities and other minority groups.
Difficult situations are always bound to arise each step of our way which can deter our progress in life. Few could have predicted the sudden wave of kidnappings in 2018, but how we deal with such situations determines our failure or success.