Esenam Amuzu is the 26-year-old founder of My Teen Life, a youth-led organization that aims to improve young women’s sexual and reproductive health rights in her home community of Accra, Ghana. The initiative, launched in 2017, educates parents and guardians on how to talk to their children about sexual health, empowers young girls with knowledge about their bodies, provides skills training to teenage mothers, and works to break the cycle of poverty and early childbirth. Since its ideation, My Teen Life has impacted over 2,000 girls through school programs and has given over 70 girls the skills to create their own income.
Esenam decided to start the organization after seeing a regular occurrence within her peer group: dropping out of school after becoming pregnant. Her earliest memory goes back as early as 6th grade. After seeing many other girls cycle through the same occurrence, Esenam was inspired to start change within her own community, especially for those who come from rural parts of Ghana. The majority of the workshops held by My Teen Life are at schools and aim to improve and provide accurate information about sex and reproduction.
With school adolescents.
Workshops and skill training sessions were implemented to teach girls how to create products in demand such as jewelry, slippers, and soap. These programs aim to reduce the vulnerability of many girls by giving them tools to become independent.
“My Teen Life wants to reach the hardest to reach. When you come to Ghana and the rural communities, there are girls who are from communities that haven’t seen electricity, that are extra vulnerable and left behind. It is not to say the girls in the city or in the slums are not, but [My Teen Life] wanted to target girls in rural communities specifically,” says Esenam. “My Teen Life was born out of my own experiences, but more importantly born out of the passions of wanting to see a better life for girls after me as well.”
Talking with young people during an art festival in Accra.
In 2016, Esenam had the opportunity to attend the Global Youth Summit, a fully funded week of training, networking, and workshops for young and aspiring change makers. It was during the summit that Esenam came up with the ideation of My Teen Life. She saw it as a reflection of her own past as a teenager; how she went through feelings of confusion in a culture where discussing sexual and reproductive health wasn’t fully accepted. This sparked her desire to help girls in her community that may have had the same thoughts, and to give them an outlet to learn more about themselves.
It may seem like a daunting task to start an initiative like a non-profit organization, but Esenam says it starts by identifying a problem in your own community. Since she grew up in an area of Ghana where the topic of sex and reproductive health was taboo, she always felt confused as a young girl. There was no one she could speak to and ask questions about her body and the changes that come with puberty. As she became a woman, she knew she wanted to bring light to this and an opportunity to girls who are also going through these changes to discuss what it means and to be educated on choices they make with their bodies.
Her favourite part about My Teen Life is having the opportunity to hear the stories of change and seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces. “It drives you to tears to hear the stories,” says Esenam, “and they’re the stories that keep me going that knowing adolescent girls deserve better.”
Speaking with young people in a rural community during a My Teen Life project.
Recently, Esenam graduated from the Ghana Institute of Journalism, majoring in Communications and Public Relations. She was also chosen to be a fellow with the United Nations Populations Fund at the Ghana office. Having already impacted over 2,000 young people, her long-term vision for My Teen Life is to reach tens of thousands of young people and would like to expand their activities to other communities in other countries.