Development communication strategy for adolescent safety and protection

Image credit: UNICEF

A UNICEF report states that for children entering adolescence, new experiences bring new risks. Violence, abuse and exploitation can take different forms as children age. Some of the violence is caused by relatives, others by strangers. Some, unfortunately, are even caused by parents.

Adolescence is a stage that is delicate in every child’s life. The way an adolescent is treated or trained determines the path to success. If parents fail to instil principles in an adolescent, the result is often time not palatable. The consequence is deadly. It is sad to note that adolescent-especially girls tend to suffer bullying and extreme discipline from foster parents and acquaintance.

They sometimes face gender-based violence, relationship partner violence as well as violence from rapists and drug addicts.

Keeping teens safe is hard enough in the physical world, let alone the cyberworld of social media, texting, online gaming, and online predators. With the insatiable lust for fame and fast life by the youth, it makes it a herculean task to keep an adolescent at bay. Internet scam has been on the ascendancy, and the adolescent is at the forefront of some of these social vices.

Parents and societies are not expected to stand by and hope for the best—we have to take action to help keep adolescents safe as they navigate the internet. Most of the adolescent who grows up in neglectful homes always desire to belong. Self-preservation is an instinct found in both humans and animals. This sense of belongingness sometimes is regrettably bad, because they tend to find themselves under the umbrella of bad influence.

In areas where there is conflict, they even migrate to other parts of the world where they can find solace. The same UNICEF report further states that harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation also threatens girls’ health and well being, with consequences that last a lifetime.

The medieval times cultural and moral ethos in this part of the world makes it almost impossible for an adolescent to have a fruitful discussion about their sexuality with parents. Sex education is prohibited at home. It is a topic that is never broached at home. It is taboo.
The adolescent eventually obtains sexual education from others who most times turn out as their exploiters.

Sex education should be on the front burner, at homes and schools. Adolescents should be encouraged to openly speak about their sexual rights and reproductive issues. It emboldens them and provides them with the knowledge to navigate their lives independently. This should help reduce teenage pregnancy in the country.

Data from the Ghana Health Service District Health Information Management Health System (DHIMS) shows that an estimated 109,888 teenagers in Ghana aged 10 to 19 years got pregnant in 2020.

Out of this, 2,865 girls who got pregnant were aged 10 to 14 while the remaining 107,023 were between the ages of 15 and 19. The 109,888 teenage pregnancies recorded in 2020 represent an 11.7percent decline over the 110,285 cases recorded in 2019. Below is a breakdown.

1.      Ashanti  17,802
2.      Eastern  10,865
3.      Central  10,301
4.      Northern  9,249
5.      Greater Accra  9,018
6.      Western  8,533
7.      Upper East  6,533
8.      Volta  6,144
9.      Bono East  5,741
10.  Bono  4,478
11.  Oti  3,970
12.  North East  3,780
13.  Western North  3,750
14.  Upper West  3,583
15.  Savanna  3,516
16.  Ahafo 2625

Over the years, several studies have found that the effects of teenage pregnancy on the mother, family and the nation can be devastating. The data on teenage pregnancy is a calamity. This tide can only be changed if parents, societies and stakeholders decide to play their roles in protecting their wards.

For over two decades now, ritual money has been the desire of most adolescents in this country. Most of them ignorantly follow their friends into a journey they cannot extricate themselves from its consequences. The premium society puts on moral discipline determines the future of the next generation.

Statistics prove that 15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime. This is scary. Adolescent need support and protection in their homes, at school, their social environment and online. Societies, unfortunately, underestimate the value of things until they are lost beyond recovery. This, however, must not be the case here.

The strategy

A Development Communication strategy aimed at putting brakes on the sloppy slope that adolescent is embarking on must focus on bolstering social protection programmes to enhance families economic stability, reducing pressures that can lead to violence or force adolescents into exploitative labour.

As part of the objectives, communities must be mobilised to transform social norms that perpetuate violence, discrimination and harmful practices – while fostering new ones that promote agency, gender equality and non-violence.

Durbars and forums must be regularly encouraged at the community level to drum home the need to build a better society through empowering adolescent. The development communication strategy must advocate for building the social welfare systems and promote investment in the child protection workforce. This helps adolescent to seek whenever they are handicapped.

Arguably the most important aspect of the programme to create a programme to help adolescents learn life skills, build confidence and advocate for their rights. The adolescent should be encouraged to take their place of pride in society. Provision of reintegration services for survivors of sexual violence by recruiting them into the services. Support adolescents as change agents to influence social norms to take actions to protect adolescent and children rights.

Communication is the key to keeping your adolescent safe online and in the real world.
Parents need to start talking to their adolescent about how the internet can affect their morals. Let your adolescent children know the online threats you’re concerned about and discuss how to steer clear of them.

Anytime you commence a dialogue about internet safety with your wards, you also pave the way for them to come to you when something strange or scary happens. With persistence and incessant discipline, it is possible to steer adolescent off the road that leads to their end.

>>>the writer is a development communication consultant. He can be reached on [email protected]

Leave a Reply