Across Ghana, teenage pregnancy and early marriage are common. These practices force many girls to drop out of school before they sit their final exams. Plan International Ireland is committed to ending these practices and protecting all girls.
In 2013, Plan International introduced a girls’ football team to a school in the rural Wa Municipality in Upper West Ghana to reduce the numbers of girls dropping out of school. With 4 in 10 girls marrying before their 16th birthday in this region, many girls enter into a life of poverty and abuse before they have a chance to finish school.
Originally a team with 22 team members, it has now dropped to 14 as some girls left school due to falling pregnant and getting married. Despite this drop-off, the girls that remain are determined to not fall prey to early marriage or teen pregnancies.
One of our friends was being pestered by boys. Even though she was coming to school normally, she fell pregnant. As time went on, her stomach started becoming bigger and she had to drop out of school. Now, after giving birth, all she can do is cut firewood to sell. That’s not the life I want.
Sherifa, aged 14
The girls’ football team, which was introduced to curb the instances of early marriages, serves as a tool to boost the confidence of adolescent girls.
At first, some parents were not willing to let their daughters play football because it was perceived to be a boys sport. As the team has developed, adults in the village have witnessed the impact that the football team has made to the girls in the community.
Girls in Upper West Ghana marry before their 16th birthday
Teenagers die yearly due to pregnancy and birth complications.
Young girls are forced to marry an older man everyday
Fuseina Mahama, a mother of the team’s full back says,
There has been a change in the attitude of my daughter. Before she started playing, she was hanging around with her friends doing nothing. Now she’s more confident, she’s working harder at school and thinking about her future.
“She won’t be like me. She will finish school, get a good job and marry a man when she is ready.”