Leaving no one behind: Chief Justice, UNFPA mentor kayayei

BY: Doreen Andoh
Ms. Selina Owusu (right), National Gender Analyst, United Nations Population Fund, addressing the beneficiaries. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY 
Ms. Selina Owusu (right), National Gender Analyst, United Nations Population Fund, addressing the beneficiaries. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY 

“My Name is Sala Abudu, a second-year student nurse at the University of Ghana School of Nursing and Midwifery and I want to thank the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Chief Justice Mentorship Programme for setting me on the path to realising my dream of becoming a nurse although all hope was lost.

“While schooling in the north, where I come from, life was so difficult for me particularly, because I had to fend for myself as a young girl through school.

The only way I found to do that easily was to come to Accra, Tudu to be precise, on vacations to work as a head porter (kayayo),” she narrated.

She explained that after doing that for a while, she realised the back and forth was not helping, but rather making life more difficult and so, “I chose to drop out of school to focus on the kaya job I was doing.”

Sala tells the Daily Graphic that while plying her trade, she encountered the UNFPA who educated her on sexual and reproductive health and on livelihood empowerment through a number of programmes, “until they eventually selected me as one of the young ladies to be mentored under the Chief Justice Mentorship programme.

“After the programme, I realised that, regardless of a person’s current situation, it was possible to pursue and achieve your dreams with perseverance and so I decided to go back to school with financial support from the UNFPA,” she added.

Kubura Fuseini, another beneficiary, gave a testimony of how she wanted to be a police officer, but could not qualify due to the fact that she was above the age limit.

Kubura, however, made a different choice and has since gone back to school to train as a teacher through the support of the UNFPA and the Chief Justice Mentorship Programme.

Sala, Kubura and Debora are among the 150 young ladies selected by the UNFPA to be included in the Chief Justice Mentorship Programme for girls to help them harness their potential.

Christened the “Orange Girls,” they were selected from among over 10,000 beneficiaries of the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage.

Orange Girls

The orange girls shared their testimonies at a programme monitoring session organised by the UNFPA in collaboration with one of its implementing partners, the Purim African Youth Development Platform (PAYDP), in Accra to assess the progress and impact of the programme so far to inform further programme decisions.

Initiated by the former Chief Justice, Justice Theodora Georgina Wood, the “Chief Justice Mentorship programme” was originally targeted at giving young people, especially girls, in second cycle institutions guidance from accomplished people in various career fields to motivate them to get determined to surmount any present and potential career and livelihood challenges.

It was also to ensure that they were able to develop the needed skills and supported to make informed decisions about their future.

In the spirit of the United Nations goal of leaving no one behind and the UNFPA’s mandate to ensure that every young person had the opportunity to fulfil their potential, the UNFPA in 2016 advocated the inclusion of kayayei and vulnerable young girls into the mentorship Programme.

There have been numerous success stories of Orange Girls who had been motivated and supported to return to school, successfully completed second cycle as well as tertiary institutions.

Some of the Orange Girls have found their feet in businesses, and others in various career paths such as dress making, bead making, hair dressing, and soap making, catering, among others, which led to them to quit the “Kayayo” job.

Beneficiaries of the programme have also been empowered with information and statutes on child and forced marriages, sexual and reproductive health education, family planning, sexual rights and how to prevent and report sexual and gender-based violence to enable them to make informed decisions.

Why follow-up session

The UNFPA Country Representative, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape, said the initiative, which is only one of the numerous interventions the UNFPA was executing, was to ensure the delivery of the United Nations agenda of leaving absolutely no one behind.

“Our continuous commitment to the elimination of child, early and forced marriages means that this partnership with PAYDP and the Chief Justice Mentorship Programme is actually a viable one deeply rooted in our shared responsibility and investment to protect and empower vulnerable girls.

As such, this follow up session, is to assess the initiative’s impact on their lives, in exploring new career paths despite their personal circumstances,” he said.

He said the UNFPA was excited about programme follow-up sessions because it offered the opportunity to interact with beneficiaries on progress, successes, challenges to inform the way forward.

Mr. Ojuolape said livelihood empowerment had been made an integral part of the UNFPA’s plan of action for executing the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage because child marriage had been identified as a function of many phenomenon such as poverty.

Child marriage

In Ghana, it is estimated that one in five girls aged 20-24 years is married before the age of 18.

The key drivers of child marriage are said to be multiple and multi-faceted and are linked to gender inequality, poverty, social norms, cultural and traditional practices, as well as teenage pregnancy.

Although child marriage is prohibited under the 1992 Constitution, which stipulates that any person under the age of 18 is a child and, therefore, cannot marry or be married off and the Children's Act of 1998 also defines a child as a human being below the age of 18, making it in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, child marriage is still rife in many parts of the country and across the world.

Mr. Ojuolape defined child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union of children under the age 18 and reiterated that it was a human rights violation.

Adolescent

“It disproportionately affects girls, robs them of their childhood, threatening their lives and health. Girls who marry before 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school.

“To curb this menace, The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage has been initiated among other goals to promote the rights of adolescent girls to avert such marriages and enable them to achieve their aspirations through sound empowering pathways.

“In alignment with the objectives of the Global Programme, the UNFPA has partnered the Chief Justice’s Mentorship Programme, with support from the PAYDP, to provide the female head porters (known as “kayayei”) with the opportunity to build their self-resilience and shape laudable career goals in life,” he said.

The Executive Director of PAYDP, Mrs. Aku Xornam Kevi, said her organisation, with support from the UNFPA, had successfully trained ‘kayayei’ from Accra, Kumasi, Assin, Techiman and some parts of the Central Region in beads making, sewing, leather works with others at various levels of education.

She said the platform would keep engaging ‘kayayei’ to help them make informed decisions.

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