The visit of the Youth Envoy to Ghana was an opportunity to leverage support for vulnerable young girls and women, to learn about partners’ initiatives on the ground, and the issues and challenges young people face in the country.

The Envoy met with the Minister of Youth and Sports in Ghana, H.E. Isaac Asiamah for a bilateral exchange on the areas of convergence and opportunities to advance the youth development agenda both in Ghana and at the level of the United Nations.

The Minister welcomed the Youth Envoy and noted that the visit was a “demonstration of her commitment to young people in Africa”. During the meeting they discussed the importance of investing in youth and harnessing the demographic dividend.

6. Minister Youth - Ghana

Photo Credit: Kweku Obeng

The Envoy also had a meeting  with Canadian High Commissioner in Ghana alongside the UNFPA Country Representative, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape. Working closely with UNFPA and other partners, the Canadian Government has been a strong advocate for promoting gender equality, access to services and education for young girls. In Ghana, the Canadian High Commission is set to support the implementation of projects targeting young girls who face risk of gender based violence, sexual exploitation, poor sexual and reproductive health, and lack of access to services and information.

On that note, the Youth Envoy conveyed her great appreciation for Canada’s role and leadership in promoting and supporting youth development in Africa, and renewed her commitment to champion girls’ empowerment.

Further, the Envoy attended the Town Hall meeting with young people, who voiced their concerns and described the challenges they are facing in realizing their aspirations. The thematic keynote statements delivered by a select number of young Ghanaians raised issues of challenges young people face in safeguarding their sexual reproductive health and rights, participation in political process, and the lack of adequate investments in environmental protection and entrepreneurship, as well as the opportunities for young people to engage in the implementation and follow up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development.

The highlight of the visit was meeting and dancing with Kayayei girls who work as head-porters at Agbogbloshie market, a crowded, local market and informal settlement, in Accra.

The Kayayei are predominantly teenage girls, some of whom have moved from rural areas to the city, looking for employment opportunities and ways to escape child marriage, offering their services to market customers as head-porters.

The nature of work and environment of their occupation put them at considerable risk. Due to lack of services and information, particularly sexual and reproductive health, these young girls often end up in vulnerable situations. They are susceptible to gender-based and sexual violence, including rape, and are at high risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Photo Credit: Kweku Obeng

Despite these challenges, the Kayayei have bonded in an association and through a local organization – PAYDP and with support from UNFPA and other partners, have built a day-care centre that provides a safe space for their young children whilst they work. In addition to this, the Kayayei also receive capacity building and as a result, they also run other income generating activities, including jewelry making. The Youth Envoy was deeply moved by the resilience displayed by the Kayayei girls, who are amongst some of the most marginalized youth in Ghana, and shared with them a message of hope and encouragement as well as gratitude for sharing their deeply personal stories.

The overview of the visit to Ghana is available on Metro TV Ghana.