This blog was written by Hawawu Issah, a street social worker with Muslim Family Counselling Services, for the International Day of the Girl Child.
I work with street-connected girls on the streets of Kumasi, Ghana. We work to educate the girls on their reproductive health, their rights to reproductive health services and build linkages with health services providers to enable them access quality reproductive health services without discrimination.
Working with street-connected children, especially girls, is a remarkable experience. It was difficult in the beginning as they were not open to us but as time went on, after we built a good relationship with them and they understood that we are on the street to provide support, they started to see us as family. They started sharing challenges they face and all the issues that affect them with us.
We visit them on the streets and hold street corner education sessions with them. We also organize focus group discussions, train a group of the girls as peer educators and organize community sessions with these educators in their slum communities. These education sessions focus on helping them understand their rights and responsibilities. We talk to them about their safety and security and educate them on how the security agencies work. Initially, they were afraid of the police but after a while they understood how they can report their issues to the police and understood that the police are supposed to be their friends.
One area that we also focused on is their menstrual hygiene and reproductive health because we realized that some of the young ones have no idea about menstruation and how to keep themselves clean when they are menstruating. We do this to ensure that they will gain self-confidence and not be embarrassed when working. Challenged with the reports of a number of the young girls being taken advantage of by boys and even older men while on the streets, we also train them on assertiveness as part of the reproductive health programme that we have with them. On Sundays, when they do not go out to work, we visit to counsel them on reproductive health issues and give them referrals to the nearest health centres as needed. The trained street champions or educators also facilitate some of these discussions with them. Where needed the older ones are educated on prevention of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and contraception use.
To us as an organization, we strongly believe that because of the situation that they find themselves in, street-connected children can be vulnerable but the vulnerability of the girls are more pronounced if they do not have someone with them on the streets to protect them, support them and help them identify their strength. This is the aspect of the work of a street worker. To ensure that every street connected child has access to a safe and trustworthy adult in their lives.
About Muslim Family Counselling Services
The Muslim Family Counselling Services is a grassroots organisation working with street-connected children and young people in Kumasi and its surroundings since 1990 to support their healthy development and active participation in the community. It has been StreetInvest’s partner since 2017 when it formally became Regional Coordinating Partner for West Africa to develop a regional network of NGOs, communities, academics and other partners to promote and foster Street Work in the Region. MFCS ensures the delivery of our Street Work programme at the local level through their own network of adult Street Workers and through delivering StreetInvest’s Street Worker training to the organisations in their local networks. To date, the MFCS local network of committed NGOs extends to Kumasi and Accra.