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Pain at home: Seen through the weary eyes of a Ghanaian teenager
From: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com | Dorcas Efe Mensah          Published On: July 26, 2013, 00:00 GMT
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Pain at home: Seen through the weary eyes of a Ghanaian teenager

Nana Oye Lithur

Abusing children is nothing new in Ghana and many a time, the very persons who are expected to protect children are the ones guilty of abusing them - parents, guardians, other family members inclusive.

For Rama Bawah, a fifteen-year-old Senior High School (SHS) student, the sinister atmosphere in her home might haunt her forever.

“I wonder if I can ever be a normal person", she told myjoyonline.com. "If I compare myself with other girls my age, I can see that I’m lacking the happiness they have. I can never be like them, I feel inferior.”

“When I go to places and see people of my age doing their own thing with free minds, I feel down spirited with thoughts because my father makes me feel like I am of no use to anybody and I can never be.”

Unable to hold back her tears, the traumatized teenager revealed that when angry, her dad doesn’t hesitate to remind her and her siblings how much he regrets bringing forth to them.

To her father, Rama and her siblings are the worst of all children.
“He tells my older sisters that they are cheap, they are prostitutes whereas he has never seen them with men. He insults us, intimidates us, beats us and scold us all the time".

She adds, amidst uncontrolled sobs, that "My father says many hurtful things and that really makes me sad,” and he blames my mother for not bringing us up well.

Rama is not the only child encountering such an ordeal at the hands of her own family. Indeed numerous children in Ghana suffer similar situations in total silence, rendering them emotionally and psychologically unwell.

Child’s Rights activist Bright Appiah is not the least surprised at the teenager’s story. The cause, according to him, is at the root of the general attitude of society towards the rights of children.

He said the Ghanaian society "just doesn't get it" that children also have some rights, inalienable rights that all are bound to uphold.

"People still hold on to traditional roles where children have no say and must only obey what adults tell them whether or not such instructions will hurt them", he continues.

Meanwhile the state, being more or less the external protector of children, has also failed quite miserably in this regard or rather seems reticent on the dangers this poses to society.

Recent news reports have pointed to how children, some as young as nine to eleven years, have opted to commit suicide due to some misunderstandings at home.

Mr Bright Appiah attributes this reaction from children to the unavailability of an "official platform where children can voice out their feelings and concerns.” Often, he says, children and parents understand issues from different perspectives and those kids who are bold enough to air their concerns despite attempts to cower them are subjected to severe physical and emotional abuse.

The Executive Director of Child Rights International believes “the family has lost its mandate of caring for the children.” He warns that if care is not taken, many will grow into adulthood with so much pain, anger and hatred for their parents and guardians and society as a whole.

A Child Protection Specialist of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Mr Abdalla Iddriss, also warns that “Violence and abuse affect children’s health and well-being, even their survival and their educational outcomes.”

So what is Ghana doing to protect its children from the devastating consequences of abuse?

Granted, some progress has been made with the establishment of the Domestic Voilence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU). Statistics show an increase in the number of children who report their parents and/or guardians for various offences.

Yet, many more children lack the guts to do same.

Nana Oye Lithur, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, admits her ministry hasn’t done enough to protect children from physical and emotional abuse.

Speaking on Joy News TV's PM Express in April, 2013, she said her ministry is strengthening efforts already in place to tackle the problem.

Rama hasn’t talked to anybody, except her friends, about her problems. Asked why she hasn’t yet lodged a complaint at the DOVVSU, she sighed and answered: “I don’t want him [her father] to be arrested”.

“We [she and her siblings] love him as a father, except that we don’t like what he does to us and we want him to change.”

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