Child Protection and the Disabled - Observations from Election 2016

The Executive Director of Child Rights International Mr Bright Appiah held a press conference to discuss issues relating to a survey that was carried out during the 2016 elections based on the electoral commission’s efforts in providing special attention to the elderly, disabled, nursing mothers, pregnant women and parents with children under 5 years.

On Ghana’s previous voting day for the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Electoral Commission (EC) placed efforts into ensuring that the elderly and disabled voters receive the appropriate attention by security agencies to vote upon arrival. Due to improvements made by the EC for Ghana’s 2016 election, measures were put in place to give attention and support to women and children, specifically to nursing mothers, pregnant women and parents with children under 5 years old.

“The objective of this analysis is to identify whether the electoral commission’s security agencies and polling agents gave attention and supported these group of people,” he explained.

CRI visited all the 10 regions, and journalists also supported with the data collection to cover a number of constituencies.

Security agencies showed a friendly attitude towards persons with disability and the aged which the EC needs to be applauded for their efforts in giving the majority the opportunity to vote upon arrival. In comparison to the 2012 elections, the 2016 elections were more organised, free of violence and more efficient.

“We observed discrepancies in the services provided for pregnant women, nursing mothers and parents with children under 5 years, and also most of the services provided were based on the initiatives of the people, but there was no general response from the system to give pregnant women, nursing mothers and parents with children under 5 years the attention and the support they need to vote,” Mr Appiah stated.

A child is anyone under the age of 18 years, so if pregnant women come to vote at a particular polling station, the state should be concerned with protecting the mother and her child as it is part of the law which can be seen under the Children’s Act, 1998.

Mr Appiah gave highlights on Greater Accra’s survey and what was observed: in Greater Accra, only 4 polling stations that did not give attention to persons with disabilities, But 57 of the polling stations we visited gave attention to persons with disabilities. 51 polling stations did not see pregnant women, but of the remaining 73, 65 polling stations paid attention to the pregnant women.

Vital issues were raised during the question and answer period.

Journalist from 3FM

Journalist from 3FM

A journalist from 3FM asked about the involvement of young children in political adverts, and what CRI’s expectations are from this incoming government with regards to vulnerable groups.

CRI has observed the 2016 elections to see whether political parties used children to make certain proclamations to support parties. We compared this to the 2000 elections and onwards and we realised that, as of 2016, there is a reduction in the use of children in political activities.

On our expectations from the NPP with regards to the vulnerable in society, we want to congratulate them for coming into office. They have made promises about social protection and we encourage them to put a lot of effort into social protection in Ghana.

Journalist from TV3

Journalist from TV3

Another journalist from TV3 asked about his conclusion and recommendations of this research and asked what should be done moving.         

CRI always integrates the best interest of children, so moving forward the EC should always consider the rights of children and give vulnerable groups the opportunity to vote without undue stress. The EC should also continue with giving the aged and disabled the services and support they need.

Institutions in Ghana should protect the interests of children and how they are portrayed. 

Fighting for Education in the Face of Adversity: The Struggles Facing a Teen Mother in Ghana – Charity’s Story

17-year-old Charity is a lover of sports, especially running, so, one day, she decided to join her school sports team. It was there that she met Jonathan, a former JHS 2 student, and they became fast friends. They began meeting up after school, and soon, to Charity’s joy, Jonathan asked her to be his girlfriend. He showered her with gifts, food and money, and Charity enjoyed every moment of their time together during and after school. She felt incredibly lucky and felt her friends were beginning to get jealous of her boyfriend, who was a senior.

But, in an instant, any envy she felt from her friends was obliterated.

Charity woke up one morning in terrible pain. Her stomach hurt so badly she had to be rushed to the hospital. Her mother was frantic, and, after multiple medical examinations, the doctor finally had an answer for them. Charity was three months pregnant.

Charity was in shock. She hadn’t felt any symptoms or witnessed any of the signs of pregnancy. She was terrified. She didn’t know anything about being a mother. She didn’t know how her classmates and friends would treat her, but she was afraid it would be with judgement.

Through this upsetting time, Charity cried often. Her mother, heavily pregnant at the time, was constantly in tears. Charity is the only girl in her family, having two brothers, and her mother always had high hopes for her. Watching her mother cry only fueled her own tears, as her deep disappointment broke Charity’s heart. Charity was filled with regret. She desperately wished she could go back and change things, but she knew that no amount of tears could change the past.

To Charity’s amazement, her father took the news well. Charity and her mother told him Jonathan was the father, and then went to Jonathan’s house to inform his parents. Jonathan’s parents were also supportive. They agreed to take care of all the medical expenses during her pregnancy and to take care of the baby after the birth.

Charity tried to stay in school but eventually had to drop out because of her condition. Watching her friends go to school every morning was hard, but her mother always gave her a shoulder to cry on and assured her that everything would work out for the best.

It is rare for girls who drop out because of pregnancy to return to school, but Charity refused to be one of those girls. The prospect of returning to school was daunting. Charity feared being teased and people talking about her behind her back, but she had dreams and aspirations and refused to let anything stand in her way.

I have always dreamt of being a caterer because I love to cook and so I wasn’t ready to give up that dream just because I got pregnant at a young age. If people could achieve their dreams I don’t see why I can’t achieve mine.

Right after Charity gave birth she went to her parents and informed them she wanted to return to school. Her parents were pleased, and her mother offered to take care of Charity’s baby while she was in school. And so, two weeks later, with support from her parents, Charity returned to school.

Upon her return, Charity was faced with all the things she had feared. She was teased and pointed at by her classmates, but Charity’s goal was to go to school and complete her education, so she did not let her classmates get to her.

There were days that I was tempted to give up, but one question that I keep asking myself when these thoughts come to mind is ‘give up and do what?’ There is absolutely nothing you can do when you give up but when you persevere and push through the tough moments you will surely make a difference

Although Charity faced difficulties, she received support from her loved ones. Jonathan had completed school the previous year, but when he found out Charity was being bothered he always came to her defense. With time, the teasing died down. Charity’s determination to continue her education showed her classmates that continuing your education, even after becoming a mother, is a challenging but rewarding decision, and came to understand that every child has the right to an education, regardless of circumstance.

I want to encourage every young girl out there to focus and work hard for what they want because the situations we find ourselves in today does not determine who we will be tomorrow, but rather our efforts.

Fighting for Education in the Face of Adversity: The Struggles Facing a Teen Mother in Ghana – Grace’s Story

Grace took steady steps as she walked from her classroom to the head teacher’s office. While her classmates are playful and girlish as they learn and chat, Grace is more serious, determined. She knows what her education is worth and she is determined not to let anything stop her from succeeding.

Adversity had been a fixture in Grace’s life, but she was determined to never give up. Her determination stemmed from experiencing things most girls never even imagine – at 17, Grace was abused, betrayed and raped, and, at 18, became a teenage mother.

Every day at 4 a.m., Grace woke up to study, feed her 4-month-old son, and get ready for school. Her life was unusual for a JHS 2 girl, but she never let that stop her.

Grace was raised by her mother, a divorcee and petty trader. Their life was plagued by hardships, which eventually forced her mother to migrate to their hometown in the Northern region, leaving Grace to stay with a distant relative her mother believed would be a good guardian. But, unbeknownst to Grace’s mother, her new guardian was anything but kind, and Grace’s mother leaving marked the beginning of years of abuse and struggle.

“Life with my madam was very difficult,” Grace shared, tears clouding her eyes, “my madam barely gave me money for my basic needs in school. She wouldn’t even give me soap to wash my clothes. She never made time to attend PTA meetings and only cared about how I washed and cleaned the house.”

Grace experienced constant emotional abuse from her madam’s husband, who never missed an opportunity to insult Grace and make her feel inferior. Grace thought often about asking him why he was so cruel but was too afraid. When she needed money for things in school, she couldn’t ask her madam or her madam’s husband, so she was often left hungry and unhappy.

Unable to bear this abuse, Grace turned to friends for financial assistance, but those friends were not as kind and welcoming as they seemed.

One day, Grace decided to visit her friend, Rita, who was a teenage mother living with her boyfriend and his two brothers. She spoke of her life with her madam and the abuse she experienced. She shared her need for money to buy books and pay her school dues. Rita promised Grace she would help, but said she couldn’t help right then.

A few months later, Rita called Grace and invited her over to collect some money. Rita welcomed Grace to her home, offering her rice and stew. Grace, ravenous, couldn’t resist, and devoured the food.

After that, her memory is hazy. She woke some time later, her clothes stained with blood and in horrible pain. She couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, but she knew one thing: she had been raped.

Gripped with fear, Grace rushed out of the house and confronted Rita, who admitted that one of the men had slept with her. Grace was furious and scared. She left the house, determined to report the rape to her madam, but, halfway home, had a troubling thought. Her madam had never been kind to her, and Grace had no idea how she would react. Would she believe her? What if her madam called her a bad girl and sent her out of the house? Grace’s madam didn’t give her much, and Grace couldn’t bear the idea of losing what little she had left. So, when Grace returned home, she kept the abuse to herself.

A few months after the incident, Grace began to feel sick and discovered she was pregnant.

She returned to Rita’s house and confronted Salifu, the man who had raped her and threatened to report him to the police. Reluctantly, Salifu took responsibility for the pregnancy.

“When Salifu said he would accept the child, I called my mother and told her about the pregnancy.”

Grace’s mother rushed to her daughter’s side. She suggested they abort the baby, but Grace feared the abortion would kill her. She had learned in school about how dangerous abortions could be when not performed responsibly. “I didn’t want to die,” she said simply.

Grace’s mother couldn’t stay by her side, a family emergency drew her back to the Northern Region, and Grace, wanting to escape the abuse of her madam, accepted when Salifu suggested she move in with his grandmother until Grace gave birth.

Grace hoped this would mark the end of the domestic abuse she experienced, day in, day out, but, in reality, it was only a new chapter. Salifu’s grandmother underfed Grace, who supported her pregnancy through the generosity of her neighbours. In a small stroke of luck, healthcare in her village was free, so she could still go to the clinic for antenatal visits.

Finally, Grace escaped the abuse, returning to live with her mother during her final trimester. But, abuse and neglect, along with her youth, took a toll on her body, and she suffered complications in childbirth.

Grace woke one Monday still feeling sick from the previous day, so she and her mother got in a taxi and went to the hospital. At this point, Grace was so weak the nurses said they needed to do a caesarian section.

Grace didn’t wake for three days. When her baby had been born there were complications. He was safely delivered, but was struggling to breathe and was being kept in the intensive care unit. It took two weeks before mother and son could return home.

It was not an easy transition. Grace’s health was frail, and she still felt occasional pain from the operation. But Grace was determined and informed her parents that she wished to return to school.

“My biggest agony during pregnancy was seeing my mates go to school every morning. I want to work with the fire service someday, and if I don’t complete my education they will not accept me.” Grace said with conviction. She spoke out about her experiences and struggles, and how quitting was not an option.

“Stopping school and staying in the house will not help you or the baby in the future. Only education will help you get out of poverty and other hardships.”

Grace returned to school and became an active member of her Child Rights Club. To this day, she is thankful for the opportunity to be in school once more and is determined not to let the abuse she suffered hinder her from achieving a bright future.

Fighting for Education in the Face of Adversity: The Struggles Facing a Teen Mother in Ghana – Abigail’s story

We all have dreams – dreams of all the places we’ll go, the things we’ll do – but sometimes life tests us to strengthen these dreams and to fight to make them a reality.

When Abigail found out she was pregnant as a teenager, she felt her dreams start to slip away from her. She was scared and felt broken to the point of giving up. But Abigail was not weak. She found a well of determination and perseverance deep inside her and began fighting to make those dreams that felt so tenuous a reality.

Abigail is an 18 year-old student in form 3. She has lived with her grandmother since she was 3 years-old, and is the child of divorced parents who do not live in her town. Her mother sells fish in Accra, and her father is a driver.

When Abigail was 17, she became involved with Foster, a local bus conductor. In the following months, a tenant in her house noticed changes in her body and reported them to Abigail’s grandmother. Abigail’s grandmother took her to the hospital, where their suspicions were confirmed. Abigail was pregnant.

Abigail was deeply shaken. She was unsure about what her future would look like now that she was having a child. However, her own shock was nothing compared to that of her boyfriend. When she informed Arhin of the child, he asked her to have an abortion and said he was not ready to be a father.

Abigail was devastated. She felt naïve to have thought that Arhin loved her and would do anything for her. His blunt words shattered her and she ran home in tears.

When Abigail’s mother heard of the pregnancy, she was furious. She rushed back to the village from Accra, where she was selling her fish, and vented her anger on Abigail. She yelled in anger and disappointment and, when she was done, swore to Abigail that she would never take care of her again.

Still, as a final act before leaving Abigail once more for the city, Abigail’s mother called Arhin and argued with him to take responsibility for the baby. When Arhin still would not agree, she threatened to get him arrested, and then he finally gave in. In time, his parents began to support Abigail and the baby financially.

Abigail’s became increasingly shy around her friends in school as her body grew with the pregnancy. She made the difficult decision to stop going to school. It was a very difficult moment in Abigail’s life. Her family and community shared with her their disappointment, and tried to convince her to abort the baby, but fear of losing her life stopped Abigail from ending her pregnancy.

At this stage of her pregnancy, Abigail was crying all the time. People openly judged her on a daily basis, and did not hide it from her. It was her grandmother who got her through the hard time, comforting and encouraging her when Abigail felt hopeless. The sadness was only worsened by all the wonderful moments Abigail knew she was missing in school and how little she now saw her friends.

But, Abigail was not alone. Abigail had been a member of the child rights club at her school, and the club patron and many of the members visited her regularly. They encouraged her to stay strong, and urged her to return to school after the birth. Abigail loved these visits, but was still skeptical about continuing her education. She thought it would be impossible to go back to school.

In time, Abigail’s thoughts turned to her dream of becoming a nurse. As the goal became stronger in her mind, she knew she could only accomplish her dream if she went back to school. One day, Abigail went to her grandmother and declared her intention to return to school. Her grandmother was ecstatic. When Abigail’s mother heard of her decision, she, too, was delighted. Abigail’s mother was so pleased that she decided to start supporting Abigail as well, and this support, along with the encouragement and assistance Abigail received from her grandmother, club patron and club members, made her eager to return to school and further her education.

When the baby was born, Abigail’s grandmother decided to care for the baby so that Abigail could return to school as soon as possible, but the change was still not without difficulty. Abigail found the schoolwork and being away from her child overwhelming, but with the support of her friends and child rights club patron, she slowly overcame her challenges.

“I count myself blessed to have had good people around me who encouraged me to return to school and pursue my dream of being a nurse.”

Protecting Children in the Election Period

CRI Executive Director Bright Appiah addresses the press

CRI Executive Director Bright Appiah addresses the press

Child Rights International’s Executive Director, Mr. Bright Appiah, held a brief press conference to address the importance of protecting children in Ghana during the country’s 2016 election period.

The use of children during the voting process and in political party campaigns is a recurring issue that has been encountered in Ghana’s past elections. Thus, Mr. Bright Appiah states it is crucial that Ghana’s Electoral Commission, security agencies and the media take the appropriate steps to protect the rights of children during this pressing time.

“We have raised issues in relation to non-participatory rights of children in Ghana and how all parties must work to protect children from engaging in political activities, be it in a form of advertisement and endorsement etc. Political parties have demonstrated a commitment to protecting the non-participatory rights of children, as we see minimal use of children in political activities. On this we want to congratulate the political parties for demonstrating their commitment and do hope we continue in our collective efforts to protect children in Ghana,” he explained. 

One major issue raised at the conference was the need to include environments where children would be present as ‘flashpoint’ that require maximum security. Mr Appiah explained that although the electoral commission and security forces had marked out flashpoints for the election, it was necessary that children’s environments such as schools, children’s parks and correctional homes are added to flashpoints because even in the absence of children, there is the need to protect facilities that aid their development.

He cautioned the media to endeavour to report positively and protectively on children at all times and entreated parents and guardians not to let children out of sight on December 7. 

During the question and answer period, many valid points were raised.

A representative from the Ghana News Agency asked about what CRI is doing to protect children during election time.

CRI has contacted the electoral commission about the importance of protecting children during the election period, including the usage of children in political adverts. When we raised alarm to the electoral commission during the last election in 2008 that children were being used to register votes, the issue was promptly addressed.

In addition, Child Rights International continues our long-standing advocacy work, not just because of the election, but to continuously ensure that issues related to children and child protection are being raised and addressed. 

Fighting for Education in the Face of Adversity: the Struggles Facing a Teen Mother in Ghana - Selina's Story

Selina is a girl from a small village in the Central region. The road leading there is in such bad condition it looks abandoned. She is the youngest of five children of a single mother. Her circumstances would seem daunting to most in her situation, but Selina has always been determined to overcome any trials she faces in life, and there has been no shortage of challenges.

At 17, Selina met Michael, a mason from a neighbouring village. Michael and Selina spent time together and began a romantic relationship. Soon after, Selina discovered she was pregnant.

“I never felt sick or any pain in the beginning, I was feeling normal, my mother constantly told me that I was pregnant but I denied because I knew I was fit. I went to the hospital and I was told that I was only sick that’s why I missed my period, I wasn’t told anything about the pregnancy” she said.

In fact, it had been Selina’s mother who had realized she was pregnant. At that point she was far along and had not received any antenatal care.

When Selina’s stomach began to protrude, the embarrassment was too much to take. Selina quit school, spending most of her days at home until she gave birth.

Selina’s mother was not pleased that her daughter was pregnant. She had harboured high hopes for a brighter future for her child, but she decided not to dwell on the past, and adjust to this new future. Selina’s mother took care of her daughter until the baby was delivered.

Unfortunately, the delivery did not go smoothly. All was well when Selina went into labour until she collapsed. Selina was rushed to an operating room where she was forced to undergo a caesarian section. For some time, Selina remained unconscious, before she eventually woke and met her baby for the first time.

This was the beginning of a new phase of life for Selina. She was faced with new challenges from being a new and inexperienced mother, which she met head on. Her boyfriend couldn’t be counted on, his support was sporadic, and Selina received only a little support from her family, so she was largely alone. This was frightening for Selina. She had no job, no source of income, and no idea how she would fend for herself and her baby. Some days she felt like giving up.

But Selina is a strong girl. She drew upon her faith and perseverance and clung to her hope that she could build a better life for herself and her child. She realized how important her education was and decided to go back to school.

This was not an easy decision for Selina. The thought of going back to school brought back memories of the judgement she had received from her classmates and the community at large during her pregnancy. But these fears were nothing compared to her desire to return and complete her education, so Selina informed her mother of her intentions and prepared to continue her schooling.

Selina dreams of becoming an engineer, and would not let her pregnancy or caring for her son prevent her from pursuing that dream. In fact, her son only served to increase her determination, as she drew on her desire to provide a better life for her and her child.

“Life hasn’t been easy with me, but I believe that education will be a stepping stone to achieve this dream of mine.” 

Every child has a dream, but growing up is full of trials and challenges. Teenage pregnancy is rampant in Ghana, especially in rural areas. Many girls who become pregnant as teenagers refuse to return to school. They see teenage pregnancy as something that stops them from achieving their dreams, and give up on the life they had envisioned for themselves.

But Selina wasn’t willing to let her teenage pregnancy stop her from accomplishing anything in life. Now 19, she is more motivated than ever. She is ready to work harder and become an engineer.

Selina has a dream. She dreams of one day being once of the top engineers of our time, and she won’t let anything stop her. 

Engaging Children and Sharing Ideas

Child participation is a vital part of child rights. Children are a large proportion of the population, and have their own perspectives, opinions and ideas about child rights, education, development and other important issues. By encouraging children to participate and share ideas we are ensuring that they have a voice in the issues that impact them. Effective advocacy and development work for children is made possible by children sharing what their needs are and how they think they can best be helped.

Furthermore, children are capable and strong. Helping children to learn their rights and responsibilities enables them to advocate for themselves and their communities, not just rely on others to speak for them. Child Rights International has encouraged this through Child Rights Clubs, where children identify and develop solutions for issues in their communities.

Many girls, in particular, struggle to be assertive and to form positive relationships in their lives. The president of the Child Rights Club at Mampong Anglican Primary, Joyce, used to be one of those girls. Since she joined the Child Rights Club at her school, Joyce has overcome her shyness and has become much more outgoing and formed many new positive and healthy relationships. Child Rights International works to foster courage in children like Joyce to make sure that their voices are being heard.

Children who are engaged and heard are children who are empowered to work hard and grow into adults who are intelligent, energetic and creative. Child Rights International seeks to make sure they are always being listened to. During a trip for monitoring and evaluation, CRI focused on receiving detailed accounts of where the children felt clubs were succeeding and where they needed to be adapted. In this way children are shaping the future of the clubs, and learning to become leaders who have the skills and drive to make a difference in their communities, the country and the world.

Monitoring and Evaluating Child Rights Clubs

On October 10th and 11th, Child Rights International visited 40 schools in 5 regions – Northern, Eastern, Central, Volta and Greater Accra – for monitoring and evaluation of Child Rights Clubs formed with the support of UNICEF.

On these trips, CRI officers were afforded the opportunity to learn about the successes and struggles faced by children in their communities. We learned about how being in Child Rights Clubs (CRCs) was empowering children, with students like Joyce, the president of the Child Rights Club at Mampong Anglican Primary, who struggled to speak up for herself before joining the club at her school. Since joining, Joyce has become much more outgoing and assertive in her life, forming healthy relationships and standing up for herself.

Our objective of the trips was to monitor the status and progress of the Child Rights Clubs and to identify any challenges and necessary improvements or adjustments that must be made for the future success of the CRCs.

We found many positive outcomes that had arisen from participation in the clubs. All children had a strong understanding of their rights and responsibilities and visits from Child Rights Ambassadors had highly motivated them. Even though they were participating in many activities, like dramas, clean-up exercise and fitness walks, children were keen to take on even more projects in their communities.

The monitoring and evaluation trips was also undertaken so the CRI could determine any challenges the Child Rights Clubs were facing, and learn how we could improve the CRCs to make sure they are as impactful as possible for the children, communities and Ghana.

We found that many schools were struggling with resources an wanted more educational tools like books. In addition, the children’s keenness to do more meant that many asked for help holding even more club meetings.

Overall, Child Rights International found that Child Rights Clubs are succeeding in communities to empower and teach children to make the most of their education and to be active and positive members of their communities who live healthy and happy lives.

Child Rights International Welcomes a New Service Personnel

Hermione Krapa

Hermione Krapa

Child Rights International is happy to welcome Hermione Krapa to our team!

Hermione is a recent graduate of the University of Ghana in Geography and Dance Studies. She is doing her service year with Child Rights International because she believes in the valuable work CRI is doing, and she is passionate about advocating for children and empowering them. 

Hermione believes children are the future of Ghana, and that we should invest in them.