Hundred teenage mothers in the Ofoase Ayirebi constituency in the Eastern region are struggling to get fathers for their children as men mentioned to be responsible for their pregnancies have denied responsibility.
According to Ark Development Organization, a non for Profit Organization implementing an intervention funded by UNICEF dubbed “Safe and Protective Environment for Adolescent Development (SPREAD)” to fight teenage pregnancy menace in the area, it identified one hundred and fifty (153) teenage mothers in the district in 2022 but out of the number, hundred children do not know their fathers.
David Kwaning, Project Officer for the Ark Development Organization told Starr News at the sidelines of a sensitization program on the menace at Abenase community that “we identified 153 adolescent mothers and this year the number is still counting as I speak to you we have about 70 plus teenage mothers. The saddest aspect is that majority of men who got these girls pregnant refused to accept responsibility.
In one of the communities, a girl was claiming three men were responsible for the pregnancy. She couldn’t identify the particular person who got her pregnant. This situation is worrying. So in the future are going to have over 100 children who do not know their fathers.”
Sexual and Gender-based violence against minors has become pervasive in the Ofoase Ayirebi constituency in the Akyemansa District of the Eastern Region.
Many teenage girls have become victims of sexual abuse resulting in high rates of early pregnancy.
Starr News Eastern Regional Correspondent Kojo Ansah uncovered many such victims with horrifying experiences but perpetrators let loose.
The sad stories of these victims begin with a 14-year-old from Akyem Anyinase. Her name has been omitted to protect her identity as a school-aged child.
Her life took a horrifying turn when a 60-year-old farmer, exploiting her vulnerability, subjected her to unspeakable abuse. The victim now carrying a six-month-old baby said cousin of her abuser impregnated her but was aborted by the abuser and his wife. But later, the man forcefully had sexual intercourse with her and became pregnant.
“I relocated from Akyem Anyinase to stay with him(abuser) at Akwatia when my father died. I stopped schooling and went to the farm with him. His cousin impregnated me but they aborted it. He sent me to a Clinic and they gave him some medicine so I drank one tablet and the wife inserted another into my vagina. Then later the man slept with me at Adwobie community when we go to farm and impregnated me. He threatened me not to tell anyone that if I do, he will send me to the shrine in his hometown to kill me. He brought me back to Akyem Anyinase and abandoned me that he is not responsible for the pregnancy because the baby doesn’t look like him.”
Rejected by her mother, a widow, she found a lifeline in the form of a compassionate woman, Abena Ampomaa, who is demanding justice for her.
“I want him to be arrested. How can a 60-year-old man do this to this innocent girl? You have also abandoned her and the baby,” Abena Ampomaa insisted.
Another victim, also 14 years old and in class six, had her future abruptly halted by a 20-year-old man who left her with a child at the tender age of 12.
Education became an unattainable dream as she faced the harsh realities of early motherhood.
“Things were difficult for me. My father couldn’t provide what I needed. So, I met a certain guy who said he wants us to date so he supports me. I agreed but I ruled out sexual intercourse. One day he lured me into his room and had sex with me which got me pregnant. I was 14 to 15 years. The baby is now 2 years. I want to continue my education outside this community because of stigma but it is difficult for me now the guy is unable to take care of us,” said Awurama.
These stories echo the pain endured by young girls in Kwaboadi No. 1 Junior High School, where this 17-year-old aspiring nurse who is nine months pregnant, fights to preserve her ambitions.
“I was Impregnated by a man who decided to take care of me because my mother couldn’t provide my needs. I am now nine months pregnant. I want to be a nurse. I am not happy with my situation. I won’t marry the man.”
In the Bontodiase community, two siblings were subjected to the horrifying ordeal of sexual abuse and subsequently impregnated by their abusers. The victims, a 17-year-old third-year junior high school student, and her 18-year-old sister in her first year in senior high school have had their lives forever altered.
The 18-year-old first-year Home Economics student of Ofoase Senior High School is facing expulsion from the school as a result of the pregnancy.
“They said they can’t allow a pregnant form one student to be in the school that if I were in form 2 or 3 they would have managed. So, I am in the house but after delivery, I will continue my education. I want to become a military officer.”
Kwadwo Kwaning, their distressed father, chose not to report the abuse, instead accepting money as an out of court settlement, unknowingly perpetuating the cycle of injustice.
In Akyem Akokoaso, two siblings, 15 and 12-year-old girls were abducted by a group of men riding motorcycles, commonly known as okada riders, and subjected to horrifying acts of gang rape within the confines of a single room.
Sadly, the 12-year-old girl, just a child herself, now carries the burden of a five-month pregnancy.
The grandmother of the victims is demanding justice.
“Their mother travelled to Saudi Arabia but suffered stroke before returning to Ghana. So, I have been taking care of her two daughters. So, it is painful what these Okada people have done to my daughter. Sadly, the mother of the guy is threatening to invoke curses on my daughter if he insists the boy is responsible for the pregnancy,” Madam Hagan told Starr News.
Dreams shattered, education abandoned, and futures left hanging by a thread. These girls, once full of hope, now battle against overwhelming odds.
Stephania Amissah Brikorang, in charge of Girl Child Education in the Akyemansa District Education Directorate, said most of the abusers are Okada riders. She cited an instance where an Okada rider impregnated three students in same school.
Currently only nine (9) of the BECE candidates are pregnant in the district a marginal success attributed to the SPREAD Project.
“The rate of teenage pregnancy in our district was very high but due to this intervention, the rate has reduced so we are praying that the message that we have sent across the children will inculcate so it helps them abstain to reduce teenage pregnancy and then help them in their education. Last year I had 10 BECE candidates pregnant and this year around 8 or 9. The form two students pregnant is very high; about 12 in the district,” Stephania Amissah Birikorang said.
The District Education Director, Akua Ayisi said the rising sexual assault incidence points to a deep-rooted issue—poverty which makes girls vulnerable to manipulative abusers.
She said the inability of teenage girls to afford things as basic as sanitary pads can lead to desperate measures that make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
According to the WHO, girls who give birth before adulthood are likely to bear increased health risks, social stigma, and adverse economic impacts for the rest of their lives.
The SDG Target 3.7, therefore, seeks to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes of countries
A non-governmental organization, Ark Development Organization, and UNICEF have been implementing a two-year project dubbed “Safe and Protective Environment for Adolescent Development (SPREAD)” which has been making significant strides in the past two years to combat the pervasive menace of sexual and gender-based violence in Akyemansa District.
Project officer of Ark Development Organization David Kwaning revealed a total of 207 teenage mothers were identified from last year to the first quarter of 2023, seven of whom were supported and sent back to school.
He is hopeful that, by the end of the project this year, teenage pregnancy cases will further drop.
Executive Director of Ark Development organization Emmanuel Kwarfo Minta said public awareness has been created about the negative impact of teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse on teenage girls and the community at large.
He also hinted at efforts to get the involvement of the Domestic Violence and Victims Supports Unit (DOVSSU) to pursue justice for the victims.