Today, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were invited for a one-day workshop in Tamale focusing on how to utilize the UN Mechanism and use Social Behaviour Community Change (SBCC) for advocacy on SRHR.
Improved advocacy and a higher degree of inclusion of civil society in decision-making processes are paramount in order to change policies on SRHR in Ghana. This is the core message made by Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) and Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health (GCNH) in the second phase of the project running from 2015-2017. The workshop was facilitated by HRAC together with GCNH, and brought together 22 participants representing CSOs from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions working with SRHR. The workshop was part of the project: “Improve civil society advocacy and inclusion in sexual and reproductive health rights decision in making processes in Ghana” and was one amongst two other workshops, which will be conducted in Accra on the 25th and Kumasi on the 27th of October. The aim is to present tools for advocacy, which can be of use to CSOs in their effort to be heard and included in decision-making processes in relation to SRHR.
Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health: “What is advocacy and SBCC?”
GCNH’s representatives made presentations on: 1) definitions of ‘advocacy’ and how to work with advocacy; and 2) on Social Behaviour Community Change, as a diverse communication tool to achieve change and raise awareness in communities.
The participants where invited to share experiences and definitions of advocacy. GCNH asked the Civil Society representatives: how would you describe the way you use advocacy as part of your work? One participant replied: “We build the capacity at the lowest level, so people can claim their rights. And also, we help people to understand the rules of law, so they can demand the service they are entitled to”. There are many ways to understand the concept of advocacy, but as both GCNH and the participants agreed, it can be boiled down to working on influencing decision makers and thus policies to focus on and improve an issue at hand. As an extension of the discussions on advocacy, GCNH turned to SBCC. SBCC describes in short a way to communicate to communities in alternative and diverse ways, in order to reach more people and create awareness. The aim is to create behavioural change at several levels, which will improve the actual implementation of a certain project.
Human Rights Advocacy Centre: CSOs can utilize the UN Mechanism for advocacy
HRAC made a presentation on the United Nations (UNs) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) as a way for civil society to influence political priorities on a higher level. As each country (member states of the UN) is reviewed based on information provided by both the respective state, human rights experts and civil society, this process provides an opening for civil society to engage on a higher political level. Discussions and a smaller exercise during the workshop pointed to the fact that civil society needs to target governments and development partners (DPs), who share similar political priorities. Further, HRAC’s Technical Advisor, Ms. Abbey, emphasised that civil societies role in this process is to highlight issues and the general human rights situation that often is ignored by their governments.
With active participation and inputs by the gathered representatives from CSOs, the workshop came to a close. The different approaches to advocacy and advocacy tools presented by HRAC and GCNH will hopefully inform and aid the CSOs in future work on influencing decision-makers to improve SRHR in Ghana’s Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
Mental health care services lack adequate funding, political attention and social awareness leaving mentally disabled people with few choices for treatment. Today, on the World Mental Health Day, October 10, we call for more attention to the social stigma around mental disabilities and more political support to raise the level of care provided at traditionel treatment centres in Ghana.
Persons with mental disabilities are often subjected to discrimination, social exclusion and ill-treatment. More needs to be done to combat the social stigma, not least at work places, which is this year’s World Mental Health Day theme. HRAC’s focus is on the human rights and healthcare for mental health patients at traditional or faith-based centres, where the treatment is not certified and often unregulated. With support from STAR-Ghana, HRAC in partnership with MindFreedom Ghana, recently initiated the “Promoting quality access to mental health care and rights of persons with mental disabilities in traditional mental health centres” project. The aim of the project is to improve mental health care services and treatment in traditional mental health settings in Ghana by creating awareness among civil society as well as service provider on mental health issues.
The issue with mental disabilities in Ghana is highly prevalent. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3% of Ghana’s 28.2 million people suffer severe mental disorders, and 10% suffer from mild to moderate mental disorders. These mild disorders include anxiety disorders and depression, two very curable cases (follow the links to see the full Press Release).
This morning the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) made a statement and presentation on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and Rights of Person with Mental Disabilities in Ghana at the ongoing pre-session of the Universal Parodic Review (UPR), in Geneva, Switzerland.
HRAC's statements focus on SRHR with a special attention to eduation and the distrimination, stigmatization and ill-treatment of people with mental disabilities. More specifically, HRAC recommend in the statement:
" (...) sexual health and reproductive rights are made prominent issues in the upcoming UPR, with a priority on comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education as one of the clearest solutions to many of issues cited. We therefore recommend that the Government of Ghana:
a. Develop and Adopt a National Action Plan towards the adoption of the validated Comprehensive Reproductive Health Education Guidelines and its integration into Ghanaian Schools; b. Expand community initiatives and outreach for youth- friendly education on sexuality and reproductive health". (Follow the links to see the full statement and presentation).
The UPR provides a fora for each member country to come forward and present prevalent human rights issues in the respective countries. The process involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. Each country is provided the oppurtunity to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfilltheir human rights obligations.
The Human Rights Advocacy Centre on the 18th of August, 2017 organised a Value Clarification and Advocacy workshop for Human Rights Defenders in the Volta Region. The workshop took place at the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association Hall in Ho. In attendance were 58 Human Rights defenders comprising of traditional leaders (Chiefs and Queen Mothers) from some traditional areas in Volta Region; representatives from state human rights institutions; Civil Society Organisations working with LGBT persons; and religious leaders. The workshop which is the sixth and final advocacy activity towards the implementation of the “Improving access to LGBT rights and Health care services in selected regions of Ghana” project – Phase II. The purpose of the project is to create awareness and equip advocates to protect LGBT persons from human rights abuses that serve as barriers to LGBT persons (especially MSM) accessing health care services. Activities for the workshop include: value clarification, presentation on stigma and discrimination, overview of the 2011 UN report on human rights abuses against LGBT persons, and Legal framework for advocacy on LGBT rights.
The Human Rights Advocacy acknowledges health workers as duty bearers who are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the protection of the rights of key populations in Ghana. We believe that health rights are human rights and for this reason, there should be no barriers to access to health care for key populations (KPs).
The Human Rights Advocacy Centre on the 10th of August organized a human rights education training for health workers in the Eastern Region. The training took place at the Eastern Premier Hotel in Koforidua. In attendance were about 62 health workers from the various districts in the region. The training was to educate them on the rights of KPs to encourage them to avoid stigmatization of key populations when they visit health facilities.
Ms. Philomina Ahiable, Executive Director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre took participants through a value clarification exercise. She also entreated participants to uphold their professional ethics in the discharge of their duties. She stressed the need for health workers to help their clients to make informed choices and not to stigmatize and discriminate against them as it would deter them from accessing health services. She also educated participants on articles and chapters of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, African Charter on Human and People Rights, CEDAW, UDHR and ICESCR that frowns on discrimination and stigmatization.
George Owoo, Programmes Manager of the Human Rights Advocacy took participants through the legal perspective of stigma and discrimination of LGBT persons in Ghana. He stressed that discrimination in Ghana is intersectional and experienced in three levels; individual, community and state (institutions). Therefore to understand discrimination we need to think intersectionally.
Mrs. Gifty Tetebo (Principal Nursing Officer and Regional HIV Coordinator) advised health workers to use existing structures in the health sector to change the negative practices affecting key populations in their access to health care. She advised them to focus on the health need of KPs and not their status or sexual orientation.
The training came to an end with participants making contributions as to what can be done to make healthcare more accessible, and free from stigma and discrimination for key populations.