In rural Ghana, addressing issues concerning the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of the people living there is a daunting task. According to some advocacy groups, some rural folks have resisted the education given them, mostly as a result of their cultural and religious beliefs. Nevertheless, these groups are trying their best in reaching out to the folks in these areas, to sensitize and educate them on the need to take their sexual and reproductive health seriously.
We had a twitter chat on the topic “Addressing the SRHR concerns of individuals in rural Ghana”. The guest for the discussion was Miss Aureila Mensah, a youth advocate who has worked tirelessly in the area of SRHR and gender-equality for five years.
She first pointed out that there’s no big difference between SRHR issues in rural areas and urban areas. But the context of carrying out a message plays a key role because of the recipient of the message and for rural areas, most of their beliefs are deeply rooted in culture and relgion.
The dominant topics treated in rural areas are contraceptives and family planning, menstrual hygiene, adolescent sexual health and HIV and STIs. She further explained that in these areas, it’s sometimes challenging to communicate effectively to these people. Reason being that, in such areas, their cultural and religious beliefs influences their reception of the message given to them or otherwise. Some rural folks have strong opinions opposing the education given them. This makes some people to be hostile.
Generally SRHR in rural areas is no different from urban areas. However, context plays a key role because of the recipient of the message and for rural areas, most of their beliefs are deeply rooted in culture and religion. #vizchat— aurelia🌻 mensah🌻 (@naadjeleysparks) May 14, 2020
In a rural context, the main means of communication is ‘door to door’ visitations and public durbars. In instances where they are faced with a language barrier, they go with a native of the area, who can easily communicate with them and interpret to the rural folks. She added that education in the rural areas is not enough but it’s better than before. She believes that, the situation will get better with time and also when everyone is on board to help.
My experience with rural community advocacy has made me understand that people have opinions fueled by religion and culture. However, Social and Behavioural Change Communication makes us realise that people receive and process messages differently. #vizchat— aurelia🌻 mensah🌻 (@naadjeleysparks) May 14, 2020
However as advocates, they also encounter some challenges. Some of which she listed as: funding, hostility from rural folks and culture and religion.
1️⃣Funding.— aurelia🌻 mensah🌻 (@naadjeleysparks) May 14, 2020
2️⃣Sometimes, hostility of community members depending on approach used.
3️⃣Culture and Religion. #vizchat
In addition, the situation in rural areas pertaining to teenage pregnancy and STIs is still on the increase according to Miss Mensah. Nevertheless, she believes that there’s still room for improvement as organizations are trying their best in tackling it.
Some ways SRHR education can be improved in rural areas are by:
1. Increasing financial commitment especially by Government.
2. Supporting youth led initiatives in the SRHR field.
3. Increase access to SRHR services.
SRHR advocacy has gone quiet far in rural communities but the education is not enough. Until we get everyone on board it won't be enough. #vizchat— aurelia🌻 mensah🌻 (@naadjeleysparks) May 14, 2020
In concluding the discussion, Miss Mensah further indicated ways in which other organizations can help. These she highlighted as follows:
1. By creating contextual programming and activities for rural areas.
2. Creating linkages and partnerships between organizations.
3. Creating community ownership of programs/projects.
4. Creating sustainable projects/
1️⃣Increased financial commitment especially by Government— aurelia🌻 mensah🌻 (@naadjeleysparks) May 14, 2020
2️⃣ Supporting youth-led initiatives in the SRHR Field.
3️⃣ Increase access to SRHR services.#vizchat
There’s more work to be done in addressing SRHR concerns among individuals in rural Ghana. Organizations and advocates must be committed to this work and keep up with what they are already doing.With time, people living in rural areas in Ghana will quickly and fully grasp the importance of SRHR advocacy work. Advocacy groups will achieve the desired impact: