The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – Ghana has outlined key initiatives and programmes to implement this year that would focus on nurturing and empowering new leaders, individuals and communities to reach their full potential to promote positive development across various sectors in Ghana.
In an interview with the Daily Statesman yesterday, the Country Representative of UNFPA-Ghana, Dr. Wilfred Ochan, mentioned a key priority the UNFPA is looking at, which is to raise new leaders through youth empowerment and engagement initiatives.
He said programmes such as the Youth Leaders (YoLe) Fellowship Programme, which already exists, would continue to build leadership skills among Ghana’s youth. He revealed that UNFPA plans to expand these programmes to other regions beyond Accra.
Last year, thirty-three new entrants were inducted into YoLE to prepare young people to lead meaningful careers in all spheres of society within Ghana and the global community. He projected that “we will be going to 36 or more at the end of this year. We’re also thinking about how to expand these youth programmes to other regions aside from Accra and have more output than what we are currently doing”.
“And we are looking at perhaps expanding it into youth-led organization structure, training, and leadership… We are looking at raising and bringing great youth from the supportive environment to engage youth on peace and security, by partnering NYA and key partners,” he stated. He further indicated that UNFPA will prioritize efforts focused on preventing adolescent pregnancies through education, access to reproductive health services, and the provision of contraceptives at accessible delivery points.
He noted that the UNFPA will focus on promoting youth participation and voice in decision-making processes. Rather than merely consulting youth, the aim is to integrate them into decision-making bodies and ensure their active involvement in key national conversations and discussions relevant to youth development.
In the context of reproductive health, he indicated that the UNFPA aims to reach underserved populations, including victims and survivors of obstetric fistula. According to him, efforts will also be directed towards addressing issues of maternal health care in partnership with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to ensure quality care for all.
In addition to these priorities, he noted that the UNFPA aims to revitalize its team and partnerships to ensure effective service delivery. He stressed that by collaborating with governments, civil society organizations, NGOs, and community groups, the UNFPA would drive and deliver on its mandate to promote sustainable development and improve the lives of individuals and communities across Ghana.
Challenges and strategies
Dr. Ochan further highlighted the challenges it anticipates in implementing its initiatives in Ghana, particularly focusing on reproductive health issues, and outlined strategies to overcome them.
He pointed out that socio-cultural beliefs and norms pose significant challenges in addressing reproductive health conditions. While acknowledging the importance of preserving culture, he emphasized the need to tackle harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which have adverse health and psycho-social effects on females.
Highlighting the dynamic nature of society, he noted that certain cultural norms may no longer be relevant or appropriate, especially when they jeopardize the health and development of individuals. He cited FGM as an example, emphasizing its detrimental impact on physical and mental well-being.
The UNFPA conducted a survey report on the prevalence of FGM in three northern regions, revealing its persistence despite legal bans. Factors contributing to its continuation include controlling female sexuality, marriageability, and tradition.
Successes and reflections
Reflecting on successes, the UNFPA Representative highlighted the implementation of its 8th country programme, saying “in 2023, the UNFPA managed to implement its 8th country programme, which runs 2023 to 2027”
“And I will say that year, the theme of ‘Plant’, we have laid the Foundation and rolling out this new country programme. We’ve done the preparations, site selections, and partners, the results we want to achieve… Overall, we’ve just finished our annual report…,” he added.
The UNFPA Country Rep disclosed that from the data that he sees, UNFPA had been able to achieve 94% of the planned results for last year. He also said UNFPA had also been able to achieve some of the 5-year targets within the first year in Ghana.
For instance, he cited family planning target, it recorded 833, 652 couple-year of protection of 5-year period by UNFPA contraceptives. He said the UNFPA also recorded 22 numbers of designated emergency obstetric and newborn care facilities monitoring selected emergency maternal obstetric and newborn indicators.
Looking ahead, he stated that the UNFPA aims to strengthen capacity at national and subnational levels to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, combat gender-based violence, and address harmful practices.