Girls in the Nanumba North and South Districts of the Northern Region of Ghana can now confidently report any form of violence or abuse of their basic human rights to a structure put in place by ActionAid-Ghana and recognized local Civil Society Organisations in the area to ensure that the rights of the girl-child are protected.
The Nanumba Districts are noted for their high rate of violence against young girls mostly perpetrated by men. These abuses range from defilement to force marriage, betrothal, rape and among others, with perpetrators often walking away free after the act.
The phenomenon over the years had affected female education in the area as many girls were often given out for marriage sometimes even before they turned age 18. There had even been instances whereby some of those girls ran to the Southern part of the country because they were forced to marry men older enough to be their fathers.
Fourteen year old primary six pupil Shakirah Mohammed told Savannahnews in an interview that, following several sensitization programmes carried out by ActionAid and Songtaba, most pupils were now very confident to report cases of abuse to a well established structure made up of the police, Community Advocacy Teams [CATs], head-teachers, teachers and Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) among others.
We have learned how to say no to sex to a man, she said, adding “if a man forces you to have an affair with him or rape you, you report it to the police, CATs, your head teacher, mentees or CHRAJ”.
CATs in the Massaka and Alurani communities, both suburbs of the Nanumba North District capital, Bimbilla, disclosed to this blogger that six cases of defilement were reported to the police in 2012 and the culprits were prosecuted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
Mr. Haruna Zakaria Chikaba, a 32 year old farmer in Alurani also noted that, violence against girls was a norm of the people in the community, but since the intervention of ActionAid and Songtaba for about eight years now, the situation had changed. He disclosed that in 2012, three people were prosecuted and sentenced to prison for defilement and since then, no case had been recorded.
Speaking to the officer in charge of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service in the Nanumba North District, Lance Corporal Augustina Mahama, confirmed the figures and admitted that issues of domestic violence and violence against girls in the area reached alarming levels eight years ago, but since the intervention by ActionAid and its partners, the situation had improved significantly.
Moreover, a visit by this blogger to some communities in the two districts uncovered that there had also been significant improvement in the retention of girls in schools and this contributed enormously to bridging the huge gender disparities that once existed in the districts and for that matter, the whole region.
For instance, in the 2008/2009 academic year the number of girls enrolled was 195 against 182 boys whereas in the 2009/2010 academic year, the number increased to 219 against a marginally increased figure of 211 boys. In 2012/2013, the number of girls further increased to 234 against 227 boys.