One aspect of CareNet Ghana, my partner organization, is youth development and child’s rights. While in Hohoe, I have gotten the opportunity to work with the youths from around the area. Recently a small group of teens came in to have a think tank discussion with us about what they would like their upcoming sessions at CareNet to revolve around. Each one took a piece of paper and anonymously wrote down topics that they would be interested in learning, regarding youth development and human rights. Some of the topics listed were the circulatory system and the heart, how to give back to their communities, how to take good care of oneself, how to prevent diseases, abortions, can you be friends with someone of the opposite sex, how to cooperate with other nations, HIV/AIDS, and how to effectively use the internet as a learning tool. Together, we planned a short curriculum revolving around disease prevention education.
One of CareNet Ghana’s frameworks for their projects is a Rights Based Approach to Health. Essentially, this means that the programs begin with education. By educating the communities and groups they work with, CareNet creates an education cascade. CareNet monopolizes on projects that highlight human rights and especially health as a human right. Some might believe that with privilege comes access to proper healthcare, and while to some degree this might be true, health is by no means a privilege. One’s health is an inherent human right for all human beings no matter one’s origins, social or economic status, ethnicity, religion, gender, or age. In fact, CareNet recognizes and tries to adjust the fact that humans’ lack of health is both a cause and consequence of poverty. By educating people on basic human rights and their right to health and healthcare, people learn to escape from this vicious circle of poverty.
So what does this have to do with the kids? Coming to CareNet’s youth programming is by no means a requirement by local schools, and often parents don’t even know that their children attend it. Instead, the students who come to the CareNet office after a long day of academia genuinely want to be there and learn about subjects that they find fascinating, compelling, and confusing. I find their desire for further education, outside of the classroom curriculum, to be spellbinding and moving. Education, health, and all these other aspects that we take for granted, and are much simpler to access due to privilege we encounter, are simply human rights that these kids pine for. This is why CareNet promotes child rights and youth development as key aspects of the organization. Instead of trying to change the mindsets of adults, start with the curious minds of children with genuine hopes and aspirations for the future. Teach them that sanitation is a right and not for the overtly educated. Teach them that clean facilities, family planning, and care are rights and you will observe a decline in HIV/AIDS cases. The Rights Based Approach to Health may not show immediate results; moreover, it may take years or decades before tangible changes can be seen. But, in the long run, educating people worldwide about their basic human rights, especially in terms of health, will ultimately create more sustainability and self-successes in the name of development.