Editor’s Note: Leonard Gobah is the Manager of the Marie Stopes International Ghana project “No Yawa” (no problem, or no mistake). A partnership with DKT International and the Grameen Foundation, with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, No Yawa provides accurate, non-judgmental information about sexual and reproductive health to young Ghanaians.
YOUNG PEOPLE IN GHANA SHARE STORIES OF SEXUAL HEALTH
By Leonard Gobah, Marie Stopes International
In June 2014, the Marie Stopes International Ghana No Yawa project collaborated with the Center for Digital Storytelling’s Silence Speaks program to organize the first-ever digital storytelling workshop in Ghana. The workshop brought nine young people from regions around the country together to share stories about their sexual and reproductive health.
Stories created during the five-day workshop were recorded in seven different local languages- a record number of different languages in a single workshop, in the 21-year history of the Center for Digital Storytelling. The young people who participated told personal stories of surviving and thriving in the aftermath of economic hardship, difficult relationships, teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and sexually transmitted infections. Their powerful stories took shape as short films. The stories offer youth-friendly information, open up sensitive topics, and illustrate the need for improvements in adolescent sexual health services.
For many of the participants, the workshop represented the first time they had ever held a camera. After the group shared their stories, one participant, a No Yawa peer educator, said that even though she was sad to hear what others had spoken of, she was also moved to action. Another said “I am so humbled by all these stories. I always thought I went through the most terrible experience as a young boy until I heard others speak during the workshop. I feel so relieved after sharing my story, and I am happy I have shared it to help other young people.”
As the Project Manager for No Yawa, I know that the stories created in this workshop will be of immense benefit for our program. The fact that they are told by youth means that the other young people who watch them are more likely to listen, learn, and make good decisions about their own sexual health. Adolescents need to feel comfortable accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning services. For too long, family planning has been seen as only for married couples; this must change, and the services must be made appropriate and welcoming, for youth.
At Marie Stopes International Ghana, we plan to use the stories created in the workshop as education and advocacy tools. We will be sharing them with Marie Stopes International Directors across the world, and with state health and justice agencies, legislators, and through local media here in Ghana. Most importantly, the storytellers who created the videos will show them within their schools and communities, as part of their peer education efforts.