The following summary was written by leaders of the Ghana SSDP chapter after their successful open forum last Friday, August 26 in Accra.
Students have been urged to participate in the political process and help push for sensible drug policies that will create a sustainable future for them and the next generation, speakers at SSDP Ghana’s first open forum said.
Last week, the Ghana chapter of Student for Sensible Drug Policy held a forum in Accra to empower young people to participate in the political process and push for a safer and more just future while fighting back against counterproductive drug war policies, particularly those that directly harm students. The forum, titled “War on Drugs: Rehabilitation, not incarceration; Schools, not Prisons” aimed at engaging with students and help them understand the issues with drugs in Ghana, the human rights perspective of drug use, and why drug users need help and not criminalization. The program had 85 participants from various institutions in Accra, representing NGOs, faith-based organizations, and other young activist groups. The program was held at the University of Professional Studies auditorium.
Addressing the participants, the Colombian Ambassador to Ghana and West Africa, Claudia Turbay, who was the Chairperson of the Forum urged students and young people to establish the spirit of helping others and stressed the importance of helping problematic drug users in our community. She further elaborated on the meaning of decriminalization which is still confusing to many in our society. She explained decriminalization does not mean drugs are legal, or that it encourages people to use drugs, but in simple terms, it is finding an alternative punitive measure and solution towards curbing the drug menace and helping problematic drug users in the best way we can as a nation and a community. She further stated that Colombia will be ready to lend support to SSDP towards their good cause in the area of youth development, advocacy, and health.
Among the other speakers at the forum were Dr. Appiagyei-Atua, who is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana who shared the human rights perspective of problematic drug users and why they should not be incarcerated. Mr. Henry Squire, of Hopeful Way Foundation, also shared his experience as a former drug trafficker and user, including how he ended up in recovery. He encouraged students to open up when they need help and to desist from the use of drugs as it is unhealthy. He also appealed to the government to put structures in place to help problematic drug users and not focus on criminalization and incarceration as that has not helped over the years.
The Deputy Minister for Tourism also encouraged the students to keep up their good work and work hard towards achieving their goals. She congratulated the organizers for the forum as it enables people to be abreast with the drug problems in the society and how best they can help one another especially friends and colleagues who are into drugs.
SSDP Ghana chapter leader, Juana A. Boateng, explained that over the years, the severe punitive sanctions has yielded no results. “Ghana is signed onto the drug treaties, yet we are not only a hub but a transit point, with youth being the most affected population in the country About 1.2 million young people in Africa use drugs and it falls on us as future leaders to rise up to the epidemic situation we face in recent times whiles lending help to problematic drug users into rehabilitation.”
“Drug users are not criminals but need critical care and attention through education and public health,” she added.
The guests were also entertained with twisted, turned, and melodious rhyme from the Poet Rhyme Sonny. The program was supported by Twellium Ghana, producers of Rush energy drink, Verna water, Dr, Malt etc, Rocksons foundation, PMN group of companies, YFM, Happy FM, E.tv Ghana. Zionflex, ekbensah.net, Percymarie, and the Wahbarm foundation.