Ankwanda is a fishing and farming community in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem Municipal Area in the Central Region. Like many coastal communities in the region, Ankwanda has a high prevalence of adolescent pregnancy and cohabitation.

International Needs Ghana, through the Promoting Adolescent Safe Spaces (PASS) project has equipped adolescent girls and boys, and parents/caregivers with information and skills to end adolescent pregnancy, cohabitation, and child marriage in the community. The PASS project is being implemented in partnership with UNFPA and UNICEF. Trained community facilitators engage these groups weekly through safe space meetings to discuss topics including adolescent pregnancy, menstruation, child marriage, toxic masculinity, mental health, positive parenting, and communication.

Girls have become more assertive and are making more informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. One adolescent mother who was cohabiting with her boyfriend moved with her child back to her caregiver after learning various lessons from the safe space meetings. She enrolled as an apprentice fashion designer. Her boyfriend still provides for her basic needs and that of their child. Other girls in cohabitation have moved back with their families after learning that cohabitation and unprotected sex put them at higher risk of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. About 160 girls have been reached, with no case of adolescent pregnancy since the safe space meetings began.

The boys’ safe space facilitators organized the Boys Can Cook Too competition to challenge gender norms around male involvement in the kitchen. The boys formed small groups and cooked jollof rice with chicken, banku with okro soup, and ampesi with kontomire stew. Boys have been more involved in household chores following this competition. This has given girls some more time to focus on their studies. A mentorship session with the boys helped them to be more focused on their future career pursuits and to advocate against adolescent pregnancy and child marriage, and to promote gender-equitable norms. Francis, a safe space member, enrolled as an apprentice mason following the mentorship session. 

He said,  “I have become more focused on my goals for the future since I started my apprenticeship as a mason. I don’t allow my peers to influence me into social vices. I even talk to them about the dangers of unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancy, and child marriage. When I complete my training, I can earn my own money for some years and get married to a good woman. We can start a family when we are ready.” 

More than 60 boys have been reached through the safe space meetings.

Parenting sessions have reached about 27 parents and caregivers with information to improve their relationships with their adolescent children. One parent said, “I was always insulting my 15-year-old daughter because she was stubborn. After learning about positive discipline and communication, I started talking to her more respectfully. I stopped insulting her. Initially, it was awkward but I was determined to make a change. My daughter and I have a very good relationship now. She confides in me when she has a problem. I don’t think she is stubborn anymore. She just needed me to be more understanding.”

PASS is in its 5th year of implementation and as of December 2023, over 8,000 adolescents and 67 communities had been reached since 2019. The project has so far been implemented in three administrative areas in the Central Region; Cape Coast Metropolis, Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abrem and Mfantsiman Municipalities.