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'Family Planning in Ghana: A Path to Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development'  - by Hannah Smith, 21.06.2024

As part of the Livelihood Project, the Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI) provides educational seminars to women in urban and rural areas across Ghana. During my internship we arrived in Anloga for a three-day field visit to provide training to 30 women participating in the program. Anloga is a beautiful beach town covered with mango trees and palm trees. It is located in the Keta District of the Volta Region, on a narrow peninsula surrounded by the Gulf of Guinea and Keta Lagoon. The town is predominantly inhabited by the Ewe people, whose social structures and cultural practices influence health behaviours, including family planning. 

Family planning involves the use of contraceptive methods to control the number and timing of pregnancies. For women, access to family planning allows for better health outcomes, reduced maternal mortality, and increased opportunities to pursue education and employment. For families, it means better economic stability and the ability to invest more in each child's future. At a national level, effective family planning can help manage population growth, ease pressure on public services (including health, education, and social services), and promote economic growth. Family planning is crucial for gender equality, women’s empowerment, and sustainable development.

According to the 2022 Ghana Maternal Health Survey, the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) among married women was about 30%, a significant increase from previous years but still lower than desired. The Ministry of Health has set a target of 44.4% by 2030, but regrettably Ghana is not on track to achieve this.

Misunderstandings and lack of information continue to be significant barriers. Cultural and religious beliefs play a significant role in shaping attitudes towards contraception, often hindering uptake. Traditional beliefs and customs can sometimes oppose the use of modern contraceptives too, as large families are seen as a sign of wealth and prosperity. Misconceptions and myths about the side effects of contraceptives also contribute to resistance. For this reason, education and outreach programs are critical steps towards achieving a better uptake of family planning. This is where AFAWI plays such a crucial role.

On our third day in Anloga, we provided a seminar on family planning. As a feminist who believes in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), I found the training session and the responses of the women deeply fascinating. When asked how many women have put a condom on their husband before, none of the women raised their hands. When asked how many women have seen a female condom, only two women raised their hands. I knew contraception was not as common in rural areas, but these low numbers surprised me. When asked how many women had used family planning, only one woman raised her hand. I was inspired by this woman’s strength and courage to share this with everyone. It would have been easy for her to sink into her seat and pretend she was not taking contraception either. Instead, she bravely announced she had an implant placed in her arm three years ago. After the presentation I found her in the crowd to say I was proud of her for sharing her personal story and implants are common in my country. She had a bright smile, and I hoped that reassured her. 

This group of women were kind and warm, and we were able to have a fruitful discussion about the benefits of contraception. In the data collected from a post-presentation questionnaire, 100% of the women said they would attend another family planning seminar. This is a wonderful result, as it demonstrates we are challenging the prejudices around the topic of family planning at a grassroots level.

In Ghana, while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done. This is why the work of AFAWI is so important. Education programs can address misconceptions, challenge prejudices, and promote acceptance. The benefits of family planning extend far beyond individual health, offering a pathway to economic stability, gender equality, and sustainable development for the nation. By fostering a supportive environment for family planning, we are supporting both women’s empowerment and a sustainable future for Ghana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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