My names are Salifu Mohammed. I am aged 25. I am from Northern Ghana (Tamale), where Young people or girls/women have no value or position in their families and communities. They are deprived the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives and it is a taboo for adolescents to talk about sexual reproductive health Rights. All these social norms, practices and traditions have created a tremendous inequality between young boys and girls. Most girls in our community are ignorant of their sexual and reproductive health Rights, which has caused an alarming rate of teenage pregnancy cases leading to high unsafe abortions and high incidence of child marriage. These are all the reasons why I took a bold step to be a promoter of SRHR.
I am a National Youth advocate of Plan International under the Girl's Advocacy Alliance (GAA) project, working together with three other girl Advocates. I am a Co-convener for the Northern regional Girls' Network, which brings together all GAA girls clubs within the region. I work with Plan International through a local NGO called SONGTABA (literally means Let's Help Each Other) in the Northern region. Plan International is the main support to most of our activities. To discuss girls' empowerment issues, we mostly use Plan International's "Champions of Change" manuals. Thanks to our collaboration with Social Welfare Officers and other stakeholders, we have rescued more than 10 girls from child marriage over the past 2 years.
ICPD+25, a revolutionary experience to my life
Plan International made it possible for me to take part in the ICPD+25, which I describe as the "best ever experience that happened to me in my life as advocate". It has imbibed in me an immense knowledge in Advocacy. It helped me learn and understand different approaches of how to overcome certain challenges, barriers and fears that I face in my advocacy work. Some of these include media communication in advocacy, social accountability monitoring, advocacy activities budgeting, ICPD core values for a youth, convergence methodology, Evidence Informed Practices (EIP), coordinated approaches and practices to eradicate GBV, etc.
I met new people who shared the challenges they face in their country. We networked and shared ideas on how to approach various stakeholders on even sensitive issues. I have learnt how to pitch my Advocacy ideas and some are already yielding fruits. I also got the chance to share with my colleagues on how to carry out Power and Influencing mapping in Advocacy. In fact, participating in this conference has shaped and prepared me towards bigger task ahead in my Advocacy works.
My plans after ICPD+25
I'm back in Ghana and my plans are just too many. On my return flight, ideas were flying through my mind. I have managed to structure them in five points.
- organize a step down training to my colleagues GAA Youth Advocates in Northern region, so that we have same level of information;
- Use the existing platforms at my disposal to pass through messages on SHRH no matter how little the space is;
- Draw and implement an advocacy action plan targeting policy makers, parents, teachers and children, to understand and adopt comprehensive sexuality education or SRHR through traditional and social media communications;
- Partner with other youth to follow up and hold the state actors or policy makers accountable to the commitments made during the ICPD 25;
- Involve more boys or men to help end child marriages, teenage pregnancy, GBV and all forms of harmful practices since they are mostly the perpetrators.
In conclusion, I call on plan International to continue supporting young people, by creating avenues for us to dialogue with people in power. Together we can make the world a better place for the youth and young girls.