STUDY conducted by a civil society organization Social Initiative for Literacy and Development Programme (SILDEP) – in 60 basic schools in the Upper East Region has revealed that 3,473 school-girls in the region became pregnant during the 2015/2016 academic year.

They were made up of 3,412 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, and 61 others below 14 years.

The ChIEF Executive Officer of SILDEP, Mr. Moses Dramani Luri, disclosed this at a forum at Gwollu in the Sissala West District to mark International Women’s Day last week Wednesday.

Following the grave statistics, civil society groups that participated in the forum called for stronger law enforcement to save girls in the region from early sex and forced marriages.

The forum, which was preceded by a march by schoolgirls and some women through the streets of Gwollu, was organised by SILDEP in partnership with Plan Ghana which currently funds the SILDEP’s Girls Advocacy Alliance project.   It was attended by schoolgirls, mothers and other women from various fields.

Serious implication

Mr Luri said despite the obvious cases of defilement in the region, none of the cases was reported to the police.

“This has a serious implication for law enforcement in the region,” he said.

He said in cases where girls between 16 and 18 years consented to sex leading to pregnancies, relatives of those girls negotiated for marriages or pushed the girls onto the partners to be catered for.

Prostitution gangs

Mr Luri said what was even more worrying was the discovery that some basic schools girls, particularly in Tumu, the capital of Sissala East District, had formed prostitution gangs that patronised nightclubs and other popular adult joints.

While indicating that circumstances of culture, attitude, poverty, information gap and illiteracy were major factors responsible for the situation, he added that; “Tackling gender-based violence is a strategic way to advance women’s rights and empowerment in several areas, ranging from health, education, work, freedom from violence and participation in public life.”

“I, therefore, call in the government to intensify its social intervention programmes,” he said.

The District Director of Education, Mr. Francis Maali, blamed the girls and their parents for the high cases of early pregnancy and marriage.

Sharing his experiences with the media, Mr. Maali said most parents neglected the responsibility of proper training of their children.

Two women at the function, Madam Patience Abavana, a hair dresser, and Madam Amamata Kassim, a seamstress, called for the involvement of men in the training of the girl child.

Girl empowerment

The Development Coordinator, Plan Ghana for the Sissala East and Sissala West districts, Mr. Edmund Alofei, said the organization was focusing on the girl child through structured programmes intended to empower and protect girls.

The programmes, he said, served as interventions to help the girls to learn, lead, decide and thrive.

Detective Corporal Ali Katebor of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) said it was a crime to conceal crimes and, therefore, appealed to members of the society to report rape and defilement cases for the necessary action.