25 years ago, women and men from 200 countries including Ghana gathered in Beijing, China for the Fourth World Conference on women with the single goal to recognize the rights of women and girls as human rights. The conference led to the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: a comprehensive policy agenda for the empowerment of women worldwide. In the following years, women have led the global movements ranging from issues of child trafficking; equal pay; to sexual and reproductive health rights ensuring that the rights of girls are accounted for in every sphere of life.
Today movements like these are led by adolescent girls who are proving to be truly unscripted and unstoppable. One of such girls is Ruby from Ashiedu-Keteke municipality in the Greater Accra Region. Ruby is an Adolescent Health Champion under the UNFPA/ARHR project “Empowering Adolescent Girls through Improved Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education & Quality Gender Responsive Sexual & Reproductive Health Services.”
As a 19 year old, her role as an Adolescent Health Champion is to advocate for a set of targeted actions directed at decision makers in support of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in her community, Ashiedu-Keteke. And this is what she finds most exciting because it calls for changes in laws, policies, practices and structures in order to improve the lives of her peers in regards to their reproductive health rights.
Ruby has always seen herself as a leader in SRHR. This was because of the prevalence of SRHR issues in her community and the clear need for active youth engagement to curtail this menace. Nonetheless, this has not gone without its own challenges. There are beliefs within her community that hinder her from effectively mobilizing her peers for outreach programs. Especially those that perpetuate ideas that issues of SRHR must only be discussed openly amongst adults. Nonetheless, through perseverance she has been able to encourage her peers to educate their parents and guardians on the benefits of these educative forums.
Ruby’s role as an Adolescent Health Champion is definitely one that is unscripted and it has impacted her life and that of others in numerous ways. She recalls her passion and dedication towards addressing issues of SRHR in her community, her ability to willingly collaborate with others but most importantly the impact her involvement has had on her community in reducing teenage pregnancy, abortion and sexual abuse.
Today, Ruby’s contributions as an Adolescent Health Champion has led to a rise in good and healthier choices by younger adolescents in a community where teenage pregnancy and abortion was once a norm. Young girls are now fully aware that their local health facilities offer comprehensive adolescent health care. She has referred a number of her peers to health facilities based on her training on STI’s and seeing the joy and the friendship she has developed with many of her peers was are amongst her proudest moments. Like Ruby, there are many young girls who are carry the torch of advocating for the rights of young girls and living their lives unscripted and unstoppable and their stories deserve to be highlighted.