Teenage Pregnancy, Education and the Construction of Sexuality in Ghana
I am currently working on publishing information based on my 2001-2 research which explores the gender socialization that teens in Ghana experience today with the growing emphasis on schooling and the absence of puberty rites. At a time when it is difficult to get money for school fees, and in a culture where having children is pivotal to one’s identity, I investigate how teen girls in particular cope with schooling, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. In order to explore these issues I conducted participant-observation for a year in Ghana at three secondary schools, centering on sexual education, and at a Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana clinic. I focused my interviews on female and male teenagers in school as well as teenage mothers who were not in school. Also, I interviewed teachers at the secondary schools. The expense of school, coupled with its growing cultural value, create financial burdens on parents, whose daughters frequently turn to “sugar daddies” for supplemental income. However, in doing so they risk getting pregnant and being expelled from school. Furthermore, over time people have ceased to practice the traditional puberty rites that kept girls’ sexuality in check. In an effort directed at HIV/AIDS prevention, queen mothers are now introducing Virgins’ Clubs, which provide sex education and support to unschooled girls. I conclude that gender socialization emphasizes girls’ responsibility for preventing teen pregnancy. They are taught that motherhood is valued when it is planned inside of marriage, but should not occur before they are financially independent and finished with school.
Ghana, West Africa