Leonard Selim Gobah
I was Project Manager for the most succesful youth SRH project in Ghana. I was responsible for the overall management of a Dutch funded 'No Yawa' project. I led the deveopment of FP training curricula, SBCC materials and stakeholder engagement. I led teams to build the capacity of over 1,000 health providers to deliver youth friendly SRH services with special focus on family planning. I also supported the training of over 200 service providers in LARCs. I also led teams to conduct assesment and accreditation of over 250 public and private clincs across the country as youth friendly health centers. Between 2013-2015, we served over 300,000 young people with family planning services from a baseline of 15,000. There were significant uptake of LARCs from a low of 1 to 20% among young people.
My passion for FP developed as a result of the unacceptably high numbers of unplanned pregnancies and its attendant unsafe abortions especially among young people over the years. According to the Ghana Health Service, adolescents accounted for over 20% of abortions in 2014. Deaths attributed to unsafe abortions continue to increase. What is worrying is that most of these abortions and deaths can be avoided with the use of highly effective FP methods, which are avaialble, affordable and safe.
This has been the entrenched traditional and religious stereotypes which suppresed the young unmarried assessing FP services. This is exarcebated by the misconceptions and myths surrounding FP, including FP resulting in infertility. This affected the uptake of services in the initial stages of the project.
To overcome this, we carried out intensive SBCC campaigns not only targeting young people but also including significant decision makers such as parents, chiefs, teachers, religious leaders
Ghana has a high unmet need for family planning. More than a quarter of the people using contraceptives in Ghana are using traditional methods. Overall, national mCPR increased only marginally from 17%(2008) to 22%(2014)Furthermore, the use of LARCs is very low. Among women aged 15-49, implants account for only 5% of contraceptive methods and IUCD use is less than 1%. This can be addressed by strong leadership from the government and deliberate innovative strategies to reach more young people.
I want to lead a national organisation that will focus on repositioning family planning as a way of life and not just a 'family planning issue'. This will make it attractive to young people who have not yet started making families. This will involve building strong alliances and synergies with reserach instituions to develop special 'youth branded' contraceptives at prices that are affordable to young people. I will also create opportunities for young people to lead programmes targeted at youth.