On Behalf of FIDA-Ghana, I welcome you to this morning’s event. This month we have been reminded of the importance of respecting the rights of women and girls to be free from violence through the 16 days of activism against violence, which ended on Sunday, 10th of December. Coincidentally, the 10th of December also marked a day set aside to prompt humanity to promote and respect the rights and freedoms of human beings irrespective of skin color, age or disability. Then on the 3rd of December the global celebration of disability rights day was also recognized.
However, the day set aside to celebrate World Aids day is more closely aligned to today’s event, which was under the global theme, “My Right my health, everybody counts.” This fits perfectly with FIDA Ghana’s annual campaign on “My Body my Wealth” which started a year ago with funding support from the African Women’s Development Fund. (AWDF)
This year, to ensure that every girl counts, the campaign focused on girls living with disabilities in Kumasi and able bodied girls in Accra. Future campaigns will be extended to other regions and will target both girls living with disabilities and able bodied girls.
Why Adolescent girls
According to the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA) adolescent health and development is one of the key foundations for economic development and political stability in any country. Additionally, there is a strong link between outcomes of adolescent health with future adult development, infant mortality, as well as maternal mortality.
Oftentimes statistics on gender violence which has a direct link to HIV and Aids for both able bodied girls and girls living with disability is often missing from data generated by government institutions. This lack of statistically verified evidence, makes it difficult to establish the extent, prevalence and nature of violent offences particularly against girls living with disabilities.
One of the key factors that impact adolescents’ rights to health education, and empowerment is the legal and policy environment within which they live in. Sometimes there are great laws and policies as is often found in Ghana, but these laws are unable to provide the protection desired, due to weak enforcement and lack of targeted services for adolescent girls with special needs. Such limitations present opportunities to hear the voices of girls living with disabilities as well as able bodied girls to influence governance decisions to improve their livelihoods.
Therefore, at the heart of the “My body my Wealth campaign” is the strong emphasis on the power of the arts such as poetry to strengthen the voice and influence of both able bodied adolescent girls as well as adolescent girls living with disabilities to attain social and health assets which will enable them to exercise bodily integrity for HIV prevention. This approach also provides the opportunity for adolescent girls to draw and build upon their unique talents that will make them visible and less intimidated by negative social behaviors.
The impact of the campaign last year revealed that the sharing of similar interests facilitated the transfer of information to other girls which was based on lived experiences around HIV and Aids. FIDA-Ghana observed the shift in the attitude of the adolescent girls as a result of the information sharing that occurred which promoted positive life skills among the target group. These positive outcomes reinforce the reasoning for the replication of similar approaches.
FIDA-Ghana congratulates all the poems written by the thirty adolescent girls, you are all winners despite the fact that only three girls may emerge as the top winners. I am particularly glad that consolation prizes will also be presented to seven other girls and as this campaign continues, I am confident that some of you, who did not win today, will certainly have the opportunity to exhibit your creative talents.
I look forward to listen to the winners reciting their poems and hope that it will build more confidence and inspired more of our girls to take up advocacy through poetry to a higher level.