After earning my advanced degrees in the United States, I returned to Africa with a zeal to make a difference through research and teaching. For two years, I led part of a study where we heard directly from adolescent girls in Zambia about their empowerment and health. Now back to my native Ghana, I am using implementation science to design and implement rigorous research to generate evidence-based results that inform how to effectively strengthen, scale up, and sustain family planning services to reduce unintended pregnancies. My research includes reproductive health education for adolescents in formal and informal urban neighborhoods; expanding methods and delivery channels to reach (new) family planning users; and task-shifting of implant services to community health nurses.
When I was 17 years old, I fortuitously attended the 1st African Forum on Adolescent Reproductive Health held in Addis Ababa, where I lived. Though a high-profile meeting, I didn't feel represented by the youth and adults present. I became determined to bring diversity to the voices and experiences of adolescents and to advocate for appropriate policies and programs. In my early 20s, the importance of family planning information, choice, and services -especially for youth- became very apparent.
Interacting with professionals (service providers, decision- and policy makers, researchers) who espouse family planning goals similar to mine. Yet, through casual conversation, it quickly becomes evident that many don't actually buy into FP/RH programs and policies, especially those for youth. Though unpopular, I have attempted to overcome this challenge by speaking out about how these double standards hinder progress towards any meaningful progress and societal change.
Approximately 60% of Ghanaians are under 25 years and contraceptive use is low. Our biggest challenge is a lack of commitment to family planning at the national level. It is difficult to align national health priorities and implement integration when family planning is still a relatively hidden topic. This challenge can be addressed by involving policy champions at the highest level (including the President) who can make evident the gains that Ghana can make when it invests in family planning
I am proud to be part of a network of young, energized, committed, and critical-thinking Africans. By 2021, I would have solidified my research portfolio by conducting several rigorous and context-sensitive studies to generate evidence-based results that feed into a national discourse to prioritize family planning. I will also be recognized for my work to mainstream the experiences of youth and create programs that dynamically respond to their needs as they transition into adulthood.